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John Gielgud as Richard II in 'Richard of Bordeaux'

© estate of Yvonne Gregory / Camera Press

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John Gielgud as Richard II in 'Richard of Bordeaux'

by Yvonne Gregory
bromide print, 20 January 1933
11 1/4 in. x 8 1/4 in. (286 mm x 210 mm)
Purchased, 1980
Primary Collection
NPG P140(31)

Sitterback to top

  • Sir John Gielgud (1904-2000), Actor and theatre director. Sitter in 123 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Yvonne Gregory (1889-1970), Photographer; wife of Bertram Park. Artist associated with 110 portraits, Sitter in 9 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Gielgud's fame before the Second World War was as a Shakespearian actor and director, skills he re-deployed in the triumphant one-man Shakespeare recital, Ages of Man, with which he toured the world in 1959. A versatile talent, among other works in the modern repertoire he directed and played in Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning in 1949. This portrait by Yvonne Gregory records his first popular success as Richard II in Miss Gordon Daviot's romantic comedy Richard of Bordeaux, which he also directed. The play opened at the the New Theatre, London, and ran for over a year.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 211 Read entry

    Sir John Gielgud made his stage début at the Old Vic in 1921 as the Herald in Henry V. The foremost Shakespearian actor of the time, he is equally at home in Chekhov, Wilde or Pinter. Only Hollywood has shown him ill-at-ease. This photograph by Yvonne Gregory records his first great popular success: as Richard II in Miss Gordon Daviot's romantic comedy Richard of Bordeaux, which he also directed. This opened at the New Theatre, London, in February 1933, and ran for over a year. Gregory portrays him in costume, and the photograph was taken shortly before the play opened, presumably as part of the advance publicity. She stresses Richard's pride, deploying the fullness of his robes to give an effect of majestic height. Gielgud's performance was evidently more complex. According to the critic of The Illustrated London News he built up:

    a living character - courageous, impetuous, stubborn, impractical in his dreaming, well-intentioned, devoted, capable of blind follies and injustices, a man whose conscience is the foe of his office - that has the seeds of inevitable tragedy in his soul.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 245

Placesback to top

Events of 1933back to top

Current affairs

Sir Norman Angell is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Angell was recognised for his book, Europe's Optical Illusion (or The Great Illusion) first published in 1910 and updated in 1933, which argued that war between modern powers was futile as neither the looser or victor would gain economically from it.

Art and science

British Art embraces abstraction with the establishment of 'Unit 1', the first group of British Artists dedicated to producing abstract art. The critic Herbert Read formed the group by bringing together the artists Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and the architect, Wells Coates.
The Duveen Wing extension at the National Portrait Gallery is opened by King George V.

International

The Nazi party comes to power in Germany as part of a coalition government with Hitler as Chancellor. Over the next year, the party consolidated its position through the Enabling Act (allowing them to pass legislation without the support of the coalition), by banning and purging opposition, and by making Hitler Führer in 1934: granting him the combined powers of Chancellor and President.

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