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National Portrait Gallery

Contact Details

St Martin's Place

Fax: +44 (0)20 7306 0055 Switchboard

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7312 2463 (Recorded Information)

Primary Email:

Secondary Email:

Primary Website: Click here

Secondary Website: Click here

Primary Contact: Terence Pepper, Curator of Photographs

Secondary Contact: Clare Freestone, Associate Curator of Photographs

Conditions of Access

The National Portrait Gallery's Heinz Archive and Library is the primary centre for research in the field of British portraiture. Its Public Study Room is open by appointment to those who need to study some aspect of British portraiture and cannot find their material elsewhere. The Archive and Library also provides a telephone and written enquiry service for those who are unable to come to the study room to pursue their own research.

The Photographs Collection is housed in the Orange Street building and can be accessed via an appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library.

The Heinz Archive and Library is open by appointment to those who need to study some aspect of British portraiture and cannot readily find their material elsewhere.
The Public Study Room is open Tuesday Friday 10am to 5pm.
It is closed on Bank Holidays and 24th December – 1st January inclusive, and for a two week stock-take period mid-August to mid-September.

Please telephone in advance on 0207 321 6617 (BT's Type Talk: 18001) to make an appointment. Visitors who have not previously used the Public Study Room should bring with them some form of identification, such as a passport or driver's licence.

Self-service photocopying facilities are provided in the Public Study Room. Visitors must comply with UK and European Copyright Legislation and may only make copies for private study or non-commercial research purposes. Photographic services can be arranged through the Picture Library.

All facilities are suitable for wheelchair access.

The Public Study Room is fitted with two induction loops, including one portable facility.

A large print version of our visitor's leaflet is available on request and magnifying sheets and torches are provided in the Public Study Room.

If you have any special requirements for your visit please notify Archive staff in advance.

Finding Aids
There are a number of findings aids for the Photographs Collection:

To search the entire National Portrait Gallery collection click here.

There are two handlist's for the collection: Collection holdings - prints and Collection holdings - albums.

To view a list of Photographers represented in the National Portrait Gallery's collections click here.

To view a list of Photographic exhibitions and displays since 1968- click here.

Also of value in looking for photographs are publications based either in part or wholly on the collection:

An Early Victorian Album. The Photographic Masterpieces (1843-1847) of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, by Colin Ford. 1976.

Howard Coster's Celebrity Portraits. 101 Photographs of Personalities in Literature and the Arts, by Terence Pepper. 1985.

Camera Portraits: Photographs from the National Portrait Gallery 1839 - 1989, by Malcolm Rogers. 1989.

Madame Yevonde. Colour, Fantasy and Myth, by Robin Gibson and Pam Roberts (including a catalogue by Ian Thomas). 1990.

Dorothy Wilding. The Pursuit of Perfection, by Terence Pepper. 1991.
Summary of Holdings
The Photographs Collection is housed in the Orange Street building and can be accessed via an appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library. Although the photographic representation on the website at present contains only a small percentage of the holdings of the Collection, the Collections Holdings sections for prints and albums will give a clearer idea of the scope of the collection.

Amongst the earliest significant photographs in the collection are the 3 large format volumes of calotypes (salt prints) made by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson between 1843-1847. Originally presented to the Royal Academy by Hill in 1863 they were subsequently saved for the nation by an anonymous benefactor in 1973. Other significant works of the 1840s include the Thomas Carlyle Album and a small collection of Daguerreotypes including images of Robert Stephenson, Sir Charles Wheatstone and his family by Antoine Claudet, Sir George Scharf in 1847 by Kilburn and Jenny Lind.

Roger Fenton's Historical Portraits Photographed in the Crimea during the Spring and Summer of 1855 and published by Agnews and an album of over 200 prints by Herbert Watkins also from the 1850s are highlights from the second decade of photography.

Other important works from the Victorian period include over 100 prints by Julia Margaret Cameron from the 1860s and 1870s, works by Lewis Carroll including The Christ Church Album and the 12 volumes of Camille Silvy's Daybooks. This unrivalled collection of over 15,000 studies of figures in society and visitors to London including Queen Emma of Hawaii were all taken between 1860 and 1866 (Albums 1-12).

These are complemented by several important twentieth century collections including major holdings of studio negatives, over 40,000 by Bassano, 8,000 by Howard Coster and similar quantities by the Baron Studios (1954-1973), Elliott and Fry (1943-1961), Lafayette (1926-1934) and Vandyk (1900s to 1940s).

The Vandyk and Baron Studio collections can be consulted on a database in the Public Study Room.

The important role exercised by women in the history of photographic portraiture is represented by other key collections including the autochromes and platinum prints by Olive Edis (1900s to the 1930s), the early Press photography of Christina Livingston, Mrs Albert Broom which contrasts with the stylised studio work of leading Art Deco photographer Dorothy Wilding (1920s to the 1950s) and the innovative 1930s colour work of Madame Yevonde whose career is represented from 1918 to the late 1960s. To this was recently added the large archive of Ida Kar (1908-1974) who specialized in photographing artistic life in Britain and France during the 1950s and 1960s.

Nearly 1,000 works of which he presented the first 240 at the time of his first major retrospective in 1968 represent Cecil Beaton. This was also the Gallery's first photographic exhibition. Since then the Gallery has held a regular programme of exhibitions (see link below) which has resulted in numerous further acquisitions from leading 20th century and contemporary photographers such as Norman Parkinson, Karsh of Ottawa, Bill Brandt, Jane Bown, Lewis Morley, Snowdon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Horst P.Horst, Mark Gerson, Donald MacLellan, Barry Marsden and Polly Borland.

The National Portrait Gallery has also conducted a number of Interviews with photographers.