The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

T.S. Eliot

© reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

T.S. Eliot

by Kay Bell Reynal
bromide print, 1955
13 3/8 in. x 10 1/2 in. (340 mm x 267 mm)
Purchased, 1982
Primary Collection
NPG P205

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Faces of the Century, 1999 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 October 1999 to 30 January 2000), p. 196
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 271 Read entry

    Kay Bell took up photography as the result of a dare in 1943. She was working as an associate editor for Vogue in New York, and was given a camera by the then art director. Two years later she set up a studio in an Eastside townhouse, and there, working with a hand-held camera by natural light, she produced fashion photographs and portraits which are marked by their elegance and informality. In 1947 she married the publisher Eugene Reynal, and through him came into contact with many of the leading writers of the day, often photographing them 'after lunch', as she put it, in relaxed and less guarded moments.

    The poet, playwright and critic T. S. Eliot sat to her in May or June 1955, when staying with his American publisher Robert Giroux, on his way to Boston to visit his two ailing sisters. He was by that time the 'elder statesman' of British letters, in whose work can be traced a spiritual quest which leads from the apparently despairing Waste Land (1922) to the religious fulfilment of the Four Quartets (1935-42). With characteristic prudence he gave three poetry readings on the trip - just enough to pay for it - and, with less circumspection, went to see his old friend Ezra Pound, 'il miglior fabbro' who had revised The Waste Land, and who was incarcerated in an asylum in Washington. On a visit the previous year Pound had criticized Eliot's Christianity as 'lousy', but this year things went better, and Pound wrote to Ernest Hemingway: 'Possum [Eliot] more relaxed this year … last year rather edgy'.

Events of 1955back to top

Current affairs

Robert Anthony Eden becomes prime minister. In May 1955 Winston Churchill resigned due to ill health. His successor proved to be a similarly popular leader, winning an increased majority at the general election that year. Eden's popularity was due to a combination of his long wartime service, good looks and charm.

Art and science

Mary Quant introduces the 'Chelsea Look' with her Bazaar boutique. In the 1960s Quant was a major contributor to 'swinging London' introducing some of the seminal items of 1960s fashion: the miniskirt, hot pants, paint-box make-up and plastic raincoats.

International

West Germany joins NATO, prompting the East European Communist counties to respond by forming the Warsaw Pact. The signatories of the Warsaw Pact pledged to defend each other if any member was attacked. This development was a major event in the Cold War as it firmly established the East and West as opposing military powers.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.

Citationclose

How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Support

Make a donation

Support our Making History appeal and help us transform the Gallery.

Help us make history

Online shop

A unique range of books, accessories and gifts. Every purchase supports the Gallery’s work.

Shop now

Bring a familiar face home

Refresh your home gallery with a huge selection of custom art prints .

Buy a print