Margot Fonteyn

Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

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Margot Fonteyn

by Angus McBean
bromide print, 1951
9 5/8 in. x 7 3/4 in. (244 mm x 198 mm)
Purchased, 2001
Primary Collection
NPG P894

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Angus McBean (1904-1990), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 283 portraits, Sitter in 79 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Flavia Frigeri, Women At Work: 1900 to Now, 2023, p. 83
  • Pepper, Terence, Angus McBean Portraits, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 July to 22 October 2006), p. 79 Read entry

    Born Peggy Hookham in Reigate, Surrey, Fonteyn was brought up in Shanghai, where she first studied dance before continuing in London with the Astafieva Dance School and at the Sadler's Wells School. She made her debut in 1934 at the Vic-Wells Ballet and created her first major role in Frederick Ashton’s Le Baiser de la Fée (1935). From then on she assumed the role of prima ballerina, dominating British dance for the rest of the 1930s until her partnership with Rudolph Nureyev in the 1960s. Exactly whose legs formed the framing device for this slightly surreal photograph remains a mystery. McBean’s other memorable portrait of Fonteyn showed her in the stunning black lace costume that she wore for her role in Ashton’s Apparitions (1949). He also took photographs for the Bear Brand stockings advertising campaign, for which he often used male ballet-dancers' legs to display the merchandise.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1951back to top

Current affairs

The Conservative Party wins the general election and Winston Churchill returns for a second term as prime minister.

Art and science

On the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival of Britain is held as a nationwide celebration of British culture, and as an impetus for post-war regeneration. As well as various art, science and industrial exhibitions and events, a major regeneration project was initiated for the South Bank area of London under the directorship of the architect, Hugh Casson.


Libya declares its sovereignty from Italian rule, becoming the first independent state to be created by the UN.
At the Treaty of San Francisco, 48 nations sign a peace treaty with Japan, officially ending the Pacific War - the last battleground of the Second World War.

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