Unseen Beatles Photos by Paul McCartney Lead National Portrait Gallery Reopening

© 1964 Paul McCartney/National Portrait Gallery

John Lennon and George Harrison, Paris. 1964

After the largest redevelopment in its history, The National Portrait Gallery in London will reopen again on June 22, 2023, with a programme of major exhibitions featuring intimate, never-before-seen portraits of The Beatles taken by Paul McCartney, pioneering female photographers such as Yevonde, and the work of Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron.

Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm (June 28 – 1 October 1, 2023) will share for the first time an extraordinary archive of rediscovered and unseen photographs taken by Paul McCartney. This exhibition will focus on the portraits captured by McCartney using his own camera between December 1963 and February 1964, the period in which John Lennon, McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr became an international cultural phenomenon.

Drawn from McCartney’s own archive, this exhibition provides a uniquely personal and never-before-seen perspective on what it was like to be a ‘Beatle’ at the start of ‘Beatlemania’, from gigs in Liverpool and London to performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York to an unparalleled television audience of 73 million people. 

The first exhibition to open as part of the Gallery’s 2023 programme will explore the life and career of the 20th century photographer, Yevonde Middleton, who pioneered the use of colour photography in the 1930s. Yevonde: Life and Colour (June 22 –  October 15, 2023) will survey the portraits and still-life works that the artist produced throughout her sixty year career, positioning Yevonde as a trailblazer in the history of British portrait photography. The exhibition builds on Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture, a major three- year project that aims to enhance the representation of women in the
Gallery’s Collection.

Reflecting the growing independence of women at that time, this exhibition will focus on the freedom photography afforded Yevonde, who became an innovator in new techniques, experimenting with solarisation and the Vivex colour process. Yevonde: Life and Colour will include new prints and present discoveries, made possible through the research, cataloguing and digitisation of Yevonde’s archive, acquired by the Gallery in 2021.

The Gallery’s annual Photographic Portrait Prize will be renamed the Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize (November 9, 2023 – February 25, 2024) to mark the exhibition’s return to the Gallery after two years at Cromwell Place. As one of the leading photography awards in the world, the Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize showcases the work of some of the most exciting and cutting-edge contemporary photographers.

The final exhibition within the NPG’s year-long programme will be Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In (March 21, 2024 – June 30, 2024). This new exhibition will juxtapose the lives and work of two of the most important and influential practitioners in the history of photography. Showcasing more than 150 rare vintage prints, the exhibition will span the entire career of both artists – who worked 100 years apart – and include examples of both their best known and less familiar work. This exhibition will explore the idea that Woodman and Cameron share an engagement with portraiture as a ‘dream space.’ 

“We can’t wait to open again as we welcome visitors into the new National Portrait Gallery," said Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery. "Our programme of exhibitions for our first year presents some of the world’s best known artists in a fresh light, contains extraordinary and never-before-seen images, uncovers the work of remarkable innovators, charts important cultural terrain and showcases the greatest contemporary portraiture."