The Back Seat Exhibition Captioner

A few days into the New Year: with Dad to Somerset House Ice Rink. A favourite spot at this time of year, though we always go as spectators in the cafe, never as skaters.

We also drop into the Norman Parkinson exhibition, A Very British Glamour. Stunning photos of ladies from vintage fashion mags. But Parkinson also had a thing for combining beauty with humour, often putting his models in unexpected poses and locations.

In one early 50s shot, his wife and muse Wanda, looking immaculate in a cashmere twin-set, sits in a rural working man’s pub, seemingly playing shove ha’penny with a flat-capped old regular. An unlikely story.

Another, The Young Look In The Theatre (1953), depicts a gaggle of up and coming stage actresses of the day. I love all the different types of outfits, hinting at what the actresses think of their own real life personae. Some casual, some up-to-the-minute fashionable, some timeless and classic, some girlish, some noble, some vampish, some womanly, some motherly.

(Clicking on the photo takes you to a much larger version on the Christie’s website, with a click-and-zoom facility)

The exhibition doesn’t list who’s who, frustratingly. So I get on the Net and find out for myself.

Top row (upside down, the old wag): Norman Parkinson himself.

Middle row (on the bars, left to right): Virginia McKenna, Elizabeth Henson, Patricia McCarron, Josephine Griffin.

Bottom row (standing, left to right): Hazel Penwarden, Zena Walker, Yvonne Furneaux, Jill Bennett, Patricia Owens, Ruth Trouncer.

I also love one Vogue portrait of Enid Boutling, model and wife of the film director Roy. Captioned ‘Impertinence (1950)‘, she’s wearing a dandyish suit with a cropped hair, a stand-offish glare, and – shock horror – is smoking a cigarette without a holder. Regarded as very daring at the time, at least for Vogue.

Enid Boulting-Vogue-1950

Another favourite is of Audrey Hepburn with a baby donkey. Parkinson clearly punning on the ‘what an adorable creature’ response.


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