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

David Bowie

© Armstrong Jones / Reproduced with permission of Trunk Archive

7 Likes 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

David Bowie

by Lord Snowdon
gelatin silver print, 1978
14 1/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. (362 mm x 297 mm) image size
Given by Antony Charles Robert Armstrong Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon, 2013
Primary Collection
NPG P1855

Sitterback to top

  • David Bowie (1947-2016), Singer, songwriter, performer and actor. Sitter in 19 portraits.

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

Published in Vogue, September 1978, with an interview by Jonathan Mantle who wrote: 'The ambiguity and mystery of his image have much to do with his ability to keep at least one jump ahead of his audience.'

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 106 Read entry

    Lord Snowdon (1930-2017), who was once married to Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, photographed many celebrities and royalty of his day. The National Portrait Gallery holds a large collection of his work. This portrait of David Bowie (1947-2016), with its sensitive handling of light, shade, pose and framing, celebrates the musician’s androgynous elegance. A man of many guises, Bowie’s breakthrough came with his song Space Oddity (1969). Gaining prominence throughout the 1970s, his ever-evolving musical style and shifting personas were always conceptually informed. Bowie’s albums include The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Diamond Dogs (1974) and Let’s Dance (1983). As an actor, he starred in films that include The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) and Labyrinth (1986), among others.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1978back to top

Current affairs

The country is brought to a virtual standstill as workers in the private and public sector strike over the government's decision to restrict wage increases. As more workers joined the strikes rubbish piled up in the streets, petrol stations ran short, and storage space had to be hired for unburied coffins. The period became known as the 'winter of discontent'.

Art and science

Louise Brown from Oldham in Greater Manchester becomes the world's first 'test-tube baby'. The 'in vitro' fertilisation procedure was a scientific breakthrough that has given thousands of infertile couples the opportunity to conceive.
Iris Murdoch wins the Booker prize with her novel. The Sea, the Sea.

International

Karol Józef Wojtyla becomes Pope John Paul II. He was the only Polish Pope and the first non-Italian Pontiff since the 16th century. During his 26-year pontificate, John Paul was recognised for his efforts to reach out to other religions and his fight against poverty and oppression. He has also, however, been criticised for his conservative attitudes towards divorce, contraception, homosexual marriage and the ordination of women priests.

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.

Do, draw and make!

Do, draw and make!

From building dens to food faces – enjoy our Playful Portraits activities and find out about some brilliant people!

Get Creative

Healthcare Heroes

Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.

Learn together

Learning resources

Downloadable and web based resources to support learning at home linked to art, history, citizenship and literacy.

Get learning