‘Lost’ photos by Paul McCartney to go on show at National Portrait Gallery

‘Lost’ photos by Paul McCartney to go on show at National Portrait Gallery

Recently rediscovered portraits taken in 60s as Beatles rose to stardom to be focus of exhibition at refurbished NPG

‘John and George’ by Paul McCartney
John and George by Paul McCartney. Photograph: Paul McCartney/The National Portrait Gallery/PA

Unseen portraits taken by Paul McCartney in the early 1960s as the Beatles were catapulted to international stardom will go on show at the refurbished National Portrait Gallery in the summer.

McCartney thought the photographs, taken between December 1963 and February 1964, had been lost, but he recently rediscovered them.

The exhibition, Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm, “will provide a uniquely personal perspective on what it was like to be a Beatle at the start of Beatlemania,” said Nicholas Cullinan, the NPG’s director.

“The photographs taken in this period captured the very moment that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were propelled from being the most popular band in Britain to an international cultural phenomenon, from gigs in Liverpool and London to performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York to a television audience of 73 million people.

“At a time when so many camera lenses were on the band, these photographs will share fresh insight into their experiences, all through the eyes of Sir Paul McCartney.”

‘Self-portraits in a mirror’ by Paul McCartney
‘Self-portraits in a mirror’ by Paul McCartney. Photograph: Paul McCartney/The National Portrait Gallery/PA

The Beatles star approached the NPG in 2020, said Cullinan. “He said he’d found these photographs that he remembers taking but thought had been lost. We sat down with him and began going through them. [It was] extraordinary to see these images – which are unseen – of such a well-documented, famous and important cultural moment.

“They’re taken by someone who was really, as the exhibition title alludes, in the eye of the storm looking outside at what was happening.”

McCartney plans to publish a book of the photographs to coincide with his 81st birthday in June. The 275 photos in the collection were taken on a 35mm camera in New York, Washington, London, Liverpool, Miami and Paris.

McCartney’s family includes three celebrated photographers. His first wife, Linda McCartney, was the first woman to shoot a Rolling Stone cover. The couple’s daughter Mary McCartney is an acclaimed photographer and film-maker and his brother Mike has published books of images of the Beatles.

Detail from ‘Vivien Leigh’ by Yevonde (1936, printed 2022-3)
Detail from ‘Vivien Leigh’ by Yevonde (1936, printed 2022-3). Photograph: Yevonde/The National Portrait Gallery/PA

Last year, McCartney published The Lyrics, in which he traced his life story through the lyrics of his songs. The book became a bestseller.

The NPG, a Grade I-listed building in central London that houses the world’s largest collection of portraits, has been closed for a major refurbishment since March 2020. During its closure, it loaned works to galleries and museums all over the world.

The gallery will reopen to the public on 22 June with an exhibition that explores the life and career of Yevonde, the 20th-century photographer who pioneered the use of colour photography in the 1930s. It will include portraits and still life works that the artist produced throughout her 60-year career and will reflect the growing independence of women at that time, while focusing on the freedom photography afforded Yevonde.

In the autumn, the NPG will restage an exhibition, David Hockney: Drawing from Life, that opened just 20 days before the gallery was forced to shut down due to Covid in March 2020. The exhibition explores Hockney’s work over the past six decades through his intimate portraits of five sitters – his mother, Laura Hockney, Celia Birtwell, Gregory Evans, Maurice Payne and the artist himself – in a range of mediums and styles, from pencil, pen and ink and crayon to photographic collage and iPad.

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