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Hoppé photos exhibition – National Portrait Gallery

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Photographs: Hoppé renaissance at the National Portrait Gallery

Wednesday, 16th February 2011 – David Franchi

Tilly_Losch_by_EOHoppe_1928___Copia.jpgAre migrants a positive or a negative aspect for the current British society? The “Hoppé Portraits: society, studio and street” gives an affirmative answer to the question. E. O. Hoppé, in fact, is one of the most important photographers of all the times. Coming from a wealthy family, he was a German born who migrated to London in 1900 to work in the financial market. It was the 1907 when he decided to make a job of his pastime, the photography, and became an eminent photographer of the last century.

 This major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, from tomorrow until the 30th of May 2011, with its nearly 150 photographs, many of them never exhibited before, will bring back interest on this forgotten great artist. The exhibition displays portraits of many important personalities including Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ezra Pound, Mussolini and many Ballet Russes dancers together with Hoppe’s photo-journalist studies, which captured the realities of day-to-day life in Britain between the wars.

This is the first major exhibition in over 30 years dedicated to E. O. Hoppé and it is in collaboration between National Portrait Gallery and Curatorial Assistance of E. O. Hoppé Estate Collection. “It is an exhibition we’ve looked forward to for a long time. We are delightful because it is in collaboration with Graham Hove. Without him it was impossible to do it. It is an extremely exciting moment not only for National Portrait Gallery but for the study of Hoppé.” Phillip Prodger, Curator, says.

Without any doubt, this exhibition marks an important step forward. Hoppé was much celebrated at his time. He was the prototypical celebrity photographer, and his success in the 1910s and 1920s can be compared to that of the currently celebrated Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon or Irving Penn.

However, in 1937 Hoppé created the Dorien Leigh photographic agency, merging his archive of photographs with the ones of other photographers being the agency used as an channel not only for his own work. Besides, the Dorien Leigh archive was organised by subject rather than photographer. Paradoxically, this led to the decline in Hoppé‘s reputation as his images were absorbed into the archive and were difficult to appreciate as a distinct group. When the Mansell Collection purchased the archives, the Hoppé body of photographic work was completely dispersed in between this much bigger collection. It remained there for over thirty years after his death, not fully accessible to the public until the collection closed down and was acquired by new owners in America.

In 1994 Graham Howe of Curatorial Assistance of E. O. Hoppé Estate Collection began the long task of extracting, cataloguing and conserving Hoppé’s work into an official archive and rejoined it with the Hoppé family archive of photographs and biographical documents, reconstituting for the first time since 1954 the complete Hoppé Collection.

A restless intellect Hoppé thought deeply about his sitters and wondered why some achieve success while others do not. Looking for answers, he left the studio periodically to find sitters from the working class, producing a series of publications exploring British social structure. Dipping himself in the raising immigrant communities of London, Hoppé created a collective portrait of the nation at that time.

From those works- in- the- streets, at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition it is possible to appreciate a selection from the “Book of Fair Women” (1922) a compilation of photographs of the women – 32 representative beauties from 24 different countries – Hoppé regarded them to be the most stunning in the world. Fair Women’s success literally made him a judge of beauty. However for its multicultural approach, the book caused controversy by raising philosophical questions about human aesthetics. This book, and, in the same year, his largest ever solo exhibition with 221 prints at the Goupil Gallery, marked a turning point in Hoppé’s career.

In the same room, there is also a collection of “Types”, these pictures explored ideas about class and typology. Hoppé was fascinated by questions of race and social mobility and compiled a collection of studio portraits examining different ‘types’ of people. He said of these portraits: “I had it in my mind to make a record of the various distinctive types which one used to see in London streets but which were rapidly vanishing as the result of changing conditions. I started on this pictorial chronicle by approaching any interesting “character”.” In between the two world wars period, Hoppé gradually started to make photographs of British street life and captured those at the other end of the social spectrum to his celebrity sitters.

Thomas Hardy was difficult to portrait, he was not feeling comfortable in front of the camera, but Hoppé could convince him. In the same room there is also a small display cabinet with two portraits of Thomas Hardy, one linocut the other drawn, made by Hoppé himself. Those two pieces are a real revelation. Their quality is incredibly amazing, especially for the drawn one. It could be a good suggestion to have an exhibition on the non- photographic-art of Hoppé.

“It has been a great pleasure to get to know Hoppé a little better” Prodger says “He was a very interesting man; a progressive thinker with an unexpected and puckish sense of humour.”

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.co.uk

Direct Link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/photographs:-hopp%c3%a9-renaissance-at-the-national-portrait-gallery/

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Written by davidfranchi

February 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

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