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Cecil Beaton

© estate of Curtis Moffat

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Cecil Beaton

by Curtis Moffat, and Olivia Wyndham
bromide print, circa 1928
11 3/8 in. x 9 1/2 in. (289 mm x 240 mm)
Purchased, 1980
Photographs Collection
NPG x20034

Sitterback to top

  • Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Photographer, designer and writer. Sitter associated with 361 portraits, Artist associated with 1112 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • Curtis Moffat (1887-1949), Photographer. Artist associated with 11 portraits.
  • Olivia Wyndham (1897-1967), Photographer. Artist associated with 5 portraits.

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. 205 Read entry

    In August 1927 Cecil Beaton became a major contributor to Vogue, and in November of the same year his first one-man exhibition at the Cooling Galleries on Bond Street established him as a significant photographic figure. With professional recognition came social success for this socially avaricious young man. In 1928 he designed clothes for the Dream of Fair Women Ball at Claridges and the charity matinée A Pageant of Hyde Park at Daly's Theatre, and much of his social life and that of his set seems to have revolved around dressing-up. Noel Coward alludes to this in his song 'I've been to a marvellous party' which includes the couplet:

    Dear Cecil arrived wearing armour

    Some shells and a black feather boa.

    In this photograph Beaton's improvised costume anticipates the torn clothes and sexual ambiguity of pop-music stars of the 1980s, and the prevailing tone is of self-dramatizing decadence.

    The American photographer and interior designer Moffat worked with Man Ray in Paris, before opening a studio at 4 Fitzroy Square, London. Beaton thought this high bohemian 'a gentle, quiet, easy-going man with velvet eyes and enormous charm', and his portrait photographs, printed on low-key papers and mounted on coloured papers, 'sensationally original'. For Moffat's assistant Olivia Wyndham, Beaton evidently had less time, for she 'was never mistress of her camera'.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1928back to top

Current affairs

The Representation of the People Act 1928 grants women the same rights to vote as men. Building on reform of 1918, this Act lowered the voting age for women from 30 to 21, and removed the ownership of property requirements.

Art and science

Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin. The Scottish scientist's identification of the first antibiotic revolutionised the treatment of infection and is a landmark in medical history. By the Second World War, penicillin was being used to treat wounded soldiers and had a major impact on survival rates of those with infected wounds.


Stalin announces the Soviet Union's first Five-Year plan of economic development. Based on Lenin's New Economic Policy, the Five-Year Plans aimed to expand the country's economy through rapid centralised industrialisation.

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