Lord Snowdon has always been so much more than the man who married the Queen's sister - and a very unroyal royal at that.
To my mind there is absolutely no question that what he will be ultimately be remembered for in the decades to come is his work. His photography and his design work (eg the Aviary at London Zoo and the Investiture of Prince Charles) set very high standards.
He also recorded the people of his - and our - lifetimes - from high society and those who moved in influential circles to people who were more disadvantaged and had fewer opportunities in life.
I find his photography work to be very impressive in terms of:
- The photographic portraits he creates - many of which are iconic. Those who create portraits have a lot to learn from him
- The topics and subject matter he covers - in this exhibition it's mostly people in the arts and artists of various kinds
- His collaboration around specific projects for publications such as the Sunday Times e.g. the plight of older people and mobility issues for disabled people.
- They now have a collection of some 267 of his photographs.
- The last tranche came in a gift of 130 photographs in 2013.
|Frances von Hofmannstal and Helen Trompeteler|
at this morning's preview
In recent years Frances assisted with the selection of the photographs which formed the recent donation to the NPG and has been responsible for the creation of the Snowdon Archive called Snowdon Review (a website well worth reviewing in depth - it includes some stunning photographs of well known artists). This has been an initiative to organise and record his work online while he is still alive, based on the meticulous records and the masses of photographs kept at his home in Launceston Place. She has also been influential in the compilation of the book which has been published today in association with the exhibition (although this is not a catalogue).
The exhibition includes:
- 'studio portraits' taken over the course of some 50 years between the 1950s and the 1990s and
- selections from Private View which was Snowdon’s important 1965 examination of the London art world created in collaboration with art critic John Russell and Bryan Robertson, then director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.
Private View examined just why London had become, along with Paris and New York, one of the three art capitals of the world. Looking at both the senior British artists as well as the new generation of Op, Pop and Abstract artists, the book - with its combination of Lord Snowdon's photographs and Germano Facetti's typography - established a bold, new visual language.
Unsurprisingly, the photos donated to the NPG are of "names" i.e. being 'notable is the basic qualification for being a sitter who is included in the National Portrait Gallery collection.
The exhibition starts with a very small section of photos which provide some context for his royal connection - in marrying the Queen's sister.
|Antony Armstrong Jones, 1st Earl Snowdon|
by Cecil Beaton
We are then treated to a cavalcade of photographs of luminaries from the past 50+years. I found the placement of two great eccentrics of the English speaking world next to one another to be inspired. Below you can see Vita Sackville West and Peter Cook.
|The Writing Corner|
Vita Sackville West (1892-1962), author, poet, gardener and gardening correspondent
and Peter Cook (1937-1995) actor, satirist, writer and comedian
|The fashion designers of the 1960s|
|The wall of photographs from 'Private View'|
|Anthony Blunt (1907-1983)|
There's an absolutely amazing photo of Antony Blunt which might be said to be prescient in its design and content. Blunt, for the uninitiated, is the art historian who also became the Keeper of the Queen's Pictures while at the same time being a Soviet Spy. At the same time, he leaked British secrets to the Russian NKVD who he joined in 1937 two years prior to joining MI5!
There is also an album on display which records the making of the exhibition and includes photos of snowdon at work on his photographs in his studio at Kensington Palace.
|Snowdon's youngest daughter, Frances von Hofmannstal, explains the album relating to Private View|
In the inner room the are a number of photos of ballet dancers, artists and authors including a stunning one of David Bowie and another of Terence Stamp.
|(clockwise from left) Terence Stamp, David Bowie, Julie Christie, John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling|
A new book
Today also saw the launch and publication of a superb new monograph about him and his photographs.
I also recommend you look at the book published in association with the exhibition. It's not cheap costing £50, however it includes some amazing photos of the art world in the second half of the 20th century. Plus it has some very interesting and different perspectives on Snowdon the photographer provided by various people from different times in his life.
I've bought a copy simply because it's a book about the people I have followed during my lifetime and includes many photographs of artists and sculptors, musicians and actors, writers and editors.
SNOWDON By Antony Armstrong Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon.
Foreword by Graydon Carter Introduction by Patrick Kinmonth Preface by Frances von Hofmannsthal Contributions by Grace Coddington, Tom Ford, Philippe Garner, Suzy Menkes, A.A. Gill, Alexandra Shulman, Nicolas Ghesquière, André Leon Talley and more. Hardcover / 10” x 13” / 368 pages / 175 colour and B&W photos. Price: £50.00 Rizzoli New York / ISBN: 978-0-847-84328-2
- For those who'd like an insight into how Snowdon is today, can I recommend you read this article Tony Snowdon is the lord of the lens in The Australian
- Exhibitions of the work of Lord Snowdon at the National Portrait Gallery