There are some women whose personality and style so inform their physical beauty that the look they are famous for is synonymous with their character. Audrey Hepburn is one of those women. A timeless beauty and paragon of elegance both inside and out, hers is a face we could look at time and time again, finding new inspiration in her spirit and her style no matter how iconic her image has become.
At KOTUR, as keen followers of Oscar Wilde’s brilliant quote, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” we are always huge admirers of women who have forged their own way through life. Hepburn survived a childhood in war-torn Holland before starting out as a ballerina in London. She went on to become one of the most famous actresses Hollywood ever produced, only to turn her back on it pretty conclusively for a life as a mother and humanitarian. And she did it all inimitably and unforgettably her way. Whether you look at her career or her fashion choices, the ones she made were distinctly hers and hers alone. It is this strength of character that makes her such an indelible person in all of our minds. It doesn’t matter which era you look at her from – or in – Audrey Hepburn always seems somehow the same.
The opportunity to look at just such images has come about again with the launch at the National Portrait Gallery in London of a new exhibition, Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon. What makes this show so special are the many previously unseen portraits being shown alongside the well known taken by Irving Penn, Norman Parkinson and Cecil Beaton. Featuring a large collection of photographs from her sons’ private collections for the first time, this exhibition shows Hepburn the star as well as Hepburn the person. You will find photographs of her dancing as a teenager, or clutching a bunch of flowers as a young girl, her behind the scenes and off duty, not being ‘Audrey Hepburn’ but simply being herself. What’s truly striking, however, is how little difference there is between the two. As this exhibition shows, the essence of what was so attractive about her – her steady, honest gaze, her unique look, her entirely unpretentious sense of style – shone through no matter what the circumstances or time of her life she found herself in. On such things is true beauty built. Hepburn more than proves it.
Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon is on at London’s National Portrait Gallery from July 2nd 2015
Photo courtesy of Norman Parkinson Archive, Jack Cardiff, The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Douglas Kirkland, Robert Walders, National Portrait Gallery