Yevonde- Life and Colour

Last Chance to see ‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’ at Laing Art Gallery

‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’, a captivating exhibition showcasing the pioneering work of 20th Century British photographer Yevonde, is nearing its end at the Laing Art Gallery

‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’ is a major exhibition, organised by the National Portrait Gallery, runs until 20 April 2024, and offers a unique opportunity to delve into Yvonde’s vibrant world.

The artist, Yevonde Middleton, known as both Madame Yevonde and simply Yevonde (1893-1975), was a London-based photographer who defied expectations with her playfulness and bold use of colour in a time when colour photography wasn’t considered a serious medium. This exhibition, the largest-ever showcase of her work, features over 150 captivating photographs, including 25 newly discovered works.

Yevonde- Life and Colour
Self-Portrait with Vivex One-Shot Camera by Yevonde (1937), purchased with support from the Portrait Fund, 2021 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Trailblazing Techniques and Enduring Portraits

Spanning six decades, Yevonde’s career reveals a remarkable breadth of work.  From iconic portraits of cultural figures like George Bernard Shaw and Vivien Leigh to surreal still lives and playful tableaux. Yevonde’s lens captured the essence of her subjects with a unique flair.

She pioneered the Vivex colour process and experimented with techniques such as solarisation, leaving a lasting impact on the history of British portrait photography.

Championing Women’s Voices

Yevonde’s story transcends beautiful visuals. She was a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Her work reflects the growing independence of women after World War I. The exhibition explores her contributions to the women’s movement. As well as highlights her publications in leading magazines like Tatler and The Sketch, capturing the changing social landscape and highlighting the rise of women’s empowerment.

Unveiling a Legacy

‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’ goes beyond stunning photographs. It delves into Yevonde’s life and creative process through self-portraits and excerpts from her autobiography. A never-before-seen self-portrait in vivid Vivex tricolour from 1937 offers a glimpse into her artistic self-confidence.

The exhibition also showcases her most celebrated series, featuring women dressed as goddesses in surreal tableaux. A testament to her creativity and playful spirit.

Exciting Discoveries

One of the exhibition’s highlights is the recent discovery of a portrait of Dorothy Gisborne (Pratt) as Psyche (1935). This previously unknown work adds another layer to Yevonde’s acclaimed “Goddess” series. 

The exhibition is a must-see for anyone interested in photography and art history.

Main image caption: Mask (Rosemary Chance) by Yevonde (1938, printed 2022-3), purchased with support from the Portrait Fund, 2021 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The exhibition closes on Saturday 20 April 2024. Click here to find out more. Purchase your tickets on the day, no need to pre-book. Tickets range from £4-10.