The Great Hoppe

A fabulous show at the National Portrait Gallery. The bits that clearly the curators think the public will like – the celebrity portraits – are ‘meh’. I mean, they’re fine, and even fun. There’s an insanely childish-looking Margot Fonteyn, which is hard (impossible) to resist, and a picture of Ezra Pound looking suitably bonkers.

Fonteyn, at 16 (and pre-nose-job)

But it’s the photographs of daily life that are a complete revelation. Most of them are from the 1920s to the late 1930s, and the cliche, ‘another world’, is unavoidable. Here are cabbies sitting in a shelter, all wearing suits and ties (in fact, even the cooks are wearing ties). The women modelling heads in Mme Tussaud’s workshop are all wearing hats. And (my favourite) a very voluptuous nude study, from the rear (in all senses of the word) is entitled, ‘Miss Vernon’. Here is a lady flashing her bum, and she is still called ‘Miss’. It’s not that it’s unimaginable today; it’s inconceivable. And wonderful.

Images copyright 2011 Curatorial Assistance, Inc. / E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection