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Cecil Beaton

4 of 361 portraits of Cecil Beaton

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Cecil Beaton

by Pavel Tchelitchew
gouache, 1934
29 3/8 in. x 14 1/2 in. (746 mm x 368 mm)
Bequeathed by Sir Cecil Beaton, 1980
Primary Collection
NPG 5306

Sitterback to top

  • Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Photographer, designer and writer. Sitter associated with 361 portraits, Artist associated with 1111 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957), Surrealist painter. Artist of 3 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 110 Read entry

    Cecil Beaton (1904-1908) met the Sitwells when he was twenty-two at almost exactly the time he was deciding to take up photography as a career. The professional and personal relationship that developed, in particular between Beaton and Edith, was to become almost symbiotic as the mutual fame of photographer and sitter was regularly promoted and mirrored by his photographs.

    The initial meeting in 1926 had been no accident. In later life Beaton remembered asking a friend, ‘What on earth can I become in life?' 'Just become a friend of the Sitwells and wait and see what happens', had been the reply1. Beaton's initial enthusiasm rapidly secured a place for him in the Sitwells' social circle and they shared many friends in common, including Rex Whistler, Lord Berners and Tchelitchew. The introduction to Beaton's published diaries for 1928 is devoted almost entirely to each of the Sitwells in turn as he describes their impact on his artistic and ambitions: ‘the Sitwell brothers ... had established a mode of aesthetic existence that completely satisfied my own taste. No detail of their way life was ugly or humdrum.’ 'With their aristocratic looks, dignified manner, and air of lofty disdain, they seemed to me above criticism.’2

    As well as being among his most obliging sitters and social mentors, the Sitwells promoted Beaton's career in numerous ways. It was thanks to Osbert that Beaton's first book, The Book of Beauty (1930), was commissioned from Thomas Balston of Duckworth and in 1935 Beaton was asked to design the sets and costumes for the Osbert/Walton/Frederick Ashton ballet, The First Shoot, for C. B. Cochran's revue, Follow the Sun, which opened in Manchester 1935: 'my first living-picture in the theatre', Beaton described it.

    Beaton did not meet Tchelitchew until 1931 when, in company with Lord Berners, he stopped off in Paris for Edward James's ballet season and found Tchelitchew designing the scenery for Errante. 4 Tchelitchew's gouache of Beaton, however, was probably painted at the end of 1934 when they were both in New York.

    1 C. Beaton, The Wandering Years, 1961, p 150.

    2 Ibid., p 163.

    3 Ibid., p 228-9.

    4 Ibid., p 226.

  • Pepper, Terence, Beaton Portraits, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 February - 31 May 2004), p. 16
  • Pepper, Terence, Beaton Portraits, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 February to 31 May 2004), p. 16
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 41

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1934back to top

Current affairs

Sir Stafford Cripps represents the miners of Gresford Colliery in Wrexham at an inquiry into the recent gas explosion and fire which killed 263 miners, and three rescue workers in one of the worst mining disasters in British history.

Art and science

Percy Shaw invents 'Cat's eyes'. The development of road reflectors increased safety on the roads at night and proved to be particularly useful during the wartime blackout. They are still used today.
Dylan Thomas published his first volume of poetry, 18 Poems.


Stalin and Hitler consolidate dictatorial power by 'purging' their opponents. In the Soviet Union, members of the Communist Party and particular sectors of society such as the intelligentsia were targeted in the 'Great Purge', while in Germany Hitler murdered hundreds of potential opponents in the SA during the 'Night of the Long Knives'.
Thousands in the USA are forced to flee their homes to escape the Dust Bowl storms.

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