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  • Audrey Hepburn by Bud Fraker for Sabrina, Paramount Pictures, 1954.

  • Audrey Hepburn on location in Africa for The Nun’s Story by Leo Fuchs, 1958.

  • Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman for LIFE magazine, 1954.

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Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London

The National Portrait Gallery, London, dedicates an extensive retrospective to one of the most legendary actresses and fashion icons of all times, famous for her captivating personality and unparalleled style: Audrey Hepburn. Titled “Portraits of an Icon”, the exhibition casts a light on the Belgium-born actress’s extraordinary life, featuring an impressive selection of classic and never before seen photos taken by some of the most influential photographs of the 20th century, among them Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Irving Penn, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson and Steven Meisel. The exhibition, which coincides with the 65th anniversary of Hepburn’s performance in London’s nightclub Ciro’s that marked the beginning of her amazing career, also features archival footage, including a wide selection of vintage magazine covers from 1948 to 1993, as well as film stills from movies like “Roman Holiday”, “Sabrina”, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “My Fair Lady”.

Portraits of an Icon” is curated by Terence Pepper, National Portrait Gallery’s Senior Special Adviser on Photographs, and Helen Trompeteler, Associate Curator of Photographs, who spent five years working hand by hand trying to find the most representative photos of her career. In order to do so, the curators collaborated closely with Hepburn’s sons, Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Luca Dotti, who lent 35 rarely-displayed photos from the Audrey Hepburn Estate Archive in California to the exhibition, offering a unique perspective on their mother’s trajectory. “She was quite amazed by the fact that she was seen as such a beauty icon and as a great actress. She was very shy about that part of her global appreciation,Lucca Dotti told the Daily Mail, stating that his mother was often criticized about her physical appearance, especially in the beginning of her career. “Some articles depicted her as not so perfect,” he explained. “She had big feet, a big nose, and small breasts. She wasn’t what the average beautiful girl was perceived as, especially by men.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are photos of her early steps as a fashion model in London, taken by Antony Beauchamp; on and off-set photos of “Sabrina”, shot in 1953 by Mark Shaw for Life magazine; behind the scenes photos of “War and Peace” film and “Gigi” Broadway theatrical play, shot by Philippe Halsman and Larry Fried respectively; as well a series of images depicting her humanitarian work in Africa, South America and Asia, as UNICEF’s longtime ambassador. “She was a totally new beauty, as Cecil Beaton said, with this sort of post-war glamour,Terence Pepper, co-curator of the exhibition, recently told British Vogue. “What I like about her is her personality, her haircut and her eyebrows – they captivate me. And that she never wore high heels. She had an intelligence behind being sexy,” he concluded. “Portraits of an Icon” will remain on view until October 18, 2015, at the National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin’s Pl, WC2H 0HE, London. The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive catalogue, featuring more that 145 portraits and supporting images.