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Temporary closure of the Gallery from 18 March

In line with UK government guidance, the National Portrait Gallery, London will temporarily close from Wednesday 18 March 2020 until further notice, in order to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and ensure the safety and wellbeing of our visitors and staff. For further details please click here

This major new exhibition explores the extravagant world of the glamorous and stylish ‘Bright Young Things’ of the twenties and thirties, seen through the eye of renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton.  It will bring to life a deliriously eccentric, glamorous and creative era of British cultural life, combining High Society and the avant-garde, artists and writers, socialites and partygoers.

Featuring the leading cast of the ‘Bright Young Things’, many of whom Beaton would call friends – Anna May Wong, Oliver Messel and Stephen Tennant among others, this show charts Beaton’s transformation from middle-class suburban schoolboy to glittering society figure and the unrivalled star of Vogue. In addition to Beaton’s own portraits, the exhibition also features paintings by friends and artists including Rex Whistler, Henry Lamb, and Augustus John.


Spring Season 2020 sponsored by

Herbert Smith Freehills


Exhibition supported by

Noel Coward Foundation

Peter Cadbury Charitable Trust


Additional support from

Beaton studios


Media Partner

Telegraph Logo


12 March – 7 June 2020

Open daily 10.00 – 18.00/ Friday until 21.00

Porter Plus

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE


£18 - 20/ £17 - 19 (concessions)

(Transaction fee applies)
Exhibitions are free for Members and Patrons





Alternatively, please book your tickets using the authorised methods below or become a Member to enjoy free and unlimited entry to all exhibitions.

By phone 020 7321 6600
Daily 10.00-17.30 (transaction fee applies)

In person at the Gallery
Daily 10.00-17.00, Fridays until 20.00

£17 – 20
£5 tickets for under 25s on Fridays
£5 tickets for concessions and over 60s during Monday-Wednesday mornings (10.00 – 11.00)

Concessions include: Those in receipt of pension credit, universal credit or income support, students, children 12–18 years, registered unemployed, disabled people (with free entry for one carer). Proof of age or status required.

Become a Member today to enjoy immediate and unlimited entry to Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things and David Hockney: Drawing from Life with no need to book. In addition Members receive an array of fantastic benefits including special exhibition previews, priority booking and a 10% discount in the Gallery Shops, Portrait Restaurant and Portrait Café.

Membership starts from just £55 by Direct Debit.

Patrons enjoy all of the benefits of Membership as well as an exclusive events programme including opening night Private Views and curator-led tours.


The Gallery will be closed between 29 June 2020 to Spring 2023. As a member you’ll enjoy three years of benefits for the price of one, and experience our Collection in new and exciting ways.

Free admission
Gallery Members, Supporters and children under 12 years in family groups.
National Art Pass holders 50% discount

Family Tickets
Book an Adult or Pension Credit ticket and receive 50% off tickets for up to four children (12 – 18).

Tickets are £5 per student/pupil for groups 10+ visiting from 10.00-14.00, booking and paying at least a month in advance. Find out more.

Special tours are available for groups, including a lecture and opportunity to explore the exhibition. For more information visit group tours.

Over 60s
Monday – Wednesday between 10.00 -11.00 enjoy £5 tickets
Tickets for these timeslots are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment

Under 25
Every Friday enjoy £5 entry (open late, until 21.00).

Large print guides
Large print guides are available at the entrance of the exhibition or by speaking to a member of staff. The large print guide is also available to download as a pdf here


Due to the nature of the works on display, bags over 38 by 30cm, rucksacks and umbrellas are not permitted in this exhibition. Please make use of the Gallery cloakroom on Floor -2. For more information click here.

Curator Films

Discover the exhibition from the comfort of your own home with curator Robin Muir.


Curtain Raisers

Society at Play



Members viewing portrait

Enjoy free and unlimited entry to all ticketed exhibitions with no need to book. Simply show your Membership card to the exhibition entrance

Join Today


Photography Competition

Cecil Beaton by Paul Tanqueray, 1937. National Portrait Gallery, London. © Estate of Paul Tanqueray.

Cecil Beaton (detail) by Paul Tanqueray, 1937. National Portrait Gallery, London. © Estate of Paul Tanqueray.

Thank you to all those that entered. The competition is now closed, and we will be contacting the winners shortly. The winning works will be displayed online, stayed tuned for further information.

Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things brings to life the extravagant, eccentric, glamorous and creative world of the ‘Bright Young Things’ of the twenties and thirties. Taking inspiration from Beaton’s photography, we are asking our Instagram followers to create their own portrait, inspired by one of the following themes:

  • Costume and Masquerade: Beaton often attended extravagant parties and pageants, designing costumes for his friends and acquaintances. Have fun dressing up. Capture yourself or your friends and family in creative costumes made from everyday items.

  • Fashion and style: Beaton photographed for some of the world’s leading fashion magazines, including Vogue. Create images to evoke current trends and/or your own personal style.

  • Props: As a teenager, when taking photographs of his younger sisters Nancy and Baba, Beaton would use everyday items as props to create glorious backdrops for his portrait photographs. Transform everyday materials into glamorous accessories. Be inventive with props and backdrops to tell a story in your photograph.

  • Performance: Whether capturing well-known performers, or finding artistic inspiration in the performances taking place around him, the idea of performance was central to Beaton’s portraiture. Perform for the camera – create a character or capture a talented friend or family member and record this performance with photography.

  • Self-Portraits: Alongside portraits of his family, friends and celebrities Beaton also made many self-portraits. From a young age, he used mirrors and props to present himself as an artist at work in his studio, and transformed his appearance using costumes, wigs and makeup into fabulous theatrical alter-egos. Consider how to create and present a self-portrait photograph. What aspects of yourself would this image explore? Show yourself as an artist at work with your camera, or play with the idea of identity and dressing up.

25 and Over Competition: #BYTComp

Under 25s Competition: #BYTCompU25

If you are entering the U25s competition, consider the idea of modern youth culture. Taking your lead from the themes above (Costume and Masquerade; Fashion and Style; Props; Performance and Self-Portraits) think about the following - Who are your 2020 ‘Bright Young Things’? Is there a famous face or a talented friend or family member you admire? Do they act as a source of creative inspiration? If so, try to incorporate them into your entry!

Follow @nationalportraitgallery on Instagram. If you do not already have an Instagram account, you will need to download the app to your smartphone or tablet and register for free.

You can take your photo portrait using a camera, phone or tablet. Filters and other effects may be applied, but are not essential.

Simply post your entry using the correct hashtag to be in with a chance of having your work on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Caption the photograph with a title, your full name and category # (see above), and upload to Instagram.

Please note: if your Instagram account is private, we will not be able access your entry.

The deadline for submissions is 9.00 Monday 18 May 2020.

There is a further category for schools. Contact [email protected] to register your interest and receive an entry form. Or alternatively click here for more information.

Entries will be judged by Exhibition Curator Robin Muir, Photographer Tim Walker and Magda Keaney, Senior Curator, Photographs.

The winning portraits will be shared online

All entries can be taken using either a camera, smartphone or tablet.

The competition is limited to 5 entries per person.

Images must be produced in response to the exhibition Cecil Beaton’s Bright Young Things and the criteria outlined in the above text, and must be identifiable as portraits.

By submitting your work, you confirm that your contribution is your own original work, is not defamatory and does not infringe any UK laws and that you have the consent of a parent / guardian for anyone under eighteen who is identifiable in your contribution. Proof of consent for anyone under the age of eighteen will need to be supplied by all shortlisted photographers (please use the following consent form*).

By entering the competition, you confirm that the National Portrait Gallery may reproduce images for the purposes of marketing and promotion, including use on the Gallery website and social media sites.

All entries must be submitted by Midday Monday 18 May. Entries received after this time will not be eligible for consideration.

No cash alternative.

The Gallery reserves the right to substitute the prize with one of similar value at its own discretion.

The Gallery also reserves the right to withdraw or amend the competition as necessary due to circumstances outside its control.

Employees of the National Portrait Gallery their families, agents or anyone else connected with the competition are not permitted to enter.