Comedians: From the 1940s to now

Past beyond the gallery archive
29 September 2012 - 13 January 2013

Salford, The Lowry

  • Partnership exhibition



Benny Hill, by Bob Collins, 1958 - NPG  - © estate of Bob Collins / National Portrait Gallery, London

Benny Hill
by Bob Collins
1958
NPG x35152

Comedians have always been held high in public affection, with their performances often creating national talking points.  For the majority of the comedians in this display of over fifty photographs from the National Portrait Gallery, the stage has played an important part in their careers.  From the 1940s large audiences were reached through radio broadcasts and from the 1950s television captivated millions of viewers.

Photographers represented include Bob Collins who documented the rise of radio and television performers in the 1950s, Lewis Morley, photographer of the satire boom, and Trevor Leighton whose photographic survey of British comedians, The Jokers (1999), was first displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in 2000.

On display are several recent contemporary acquisitions including portraits of Mitchell and Webb by Barry Marsden, Matt Lucas by Nadav Kander and Johnny Vegas by Karl J. Kaul – a comedic tribute to Annie Leibovitz’s iconic Vanity Fair cover.