Unseen Beatles pictures to go on show as National Portrait Gallery reopens

John Lennon and George Harrison  (Paul McCartney)
John Lennon and George Harrison (Paul McCartney)

Previously unseen photographs taken by Paul McCartney at the height of Beatlemania are going on show in the re-opened National Portrait Gallery.

The pictures, taken by the musician between December 1963 and February 1964, capture the moment the foursome went from being Britain’s biggest band to worldwide sensations with their appearance on America’s Ed Sullivan show being seen by around 73 million people – and insider’s view of an unprecedented kind of celebrity.

They are from his own personal archive and have never been seen until now. They show the band members in quiet moments just as they became the most popular band in the world selling millions of records and being besieged by fans wherever they went.

The show, called Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm, will run from June to October with other shows focusing on pioneering women photographers including Julia Margaret Cameron, Yevonde and Francesca Woodman, and new work by David Hockney.

One of the Beatles images going on show (Paul McCartney)
One of the Beatles images going on show (Paul McCartney)

The Hockney show, called Drawing from Life, opens in November and is a return for the exhibition which ran for just 20 days before it was closed by Covid in March 2020.

It will also include new portraits of friends and visitors to the painter’s studio in Normandy between 2020 and 2022. There will be a return too for the renamed Taylor Wessing Photo Portrait Prize, which is open to all portrait photographers over the age of 18, from talented amateurs to established names, and carries prizes ranging from £2,000 to £15,000.

The McCartney exhibition is one of two covered by a new £5 ticket for visitors aged 30 under in a scheme bankrolled by the gallery’s sponsors Bank of America.

It comes as the gallery reopens after a multi-million pound refurbishment which has opened up its East Wing to the public and set up a new learning centre.

Gallery director Dr Nicholas Cullinan said: “We can’t wait to open again as we welcome visitors into the new National Portrait Gallery on 22 June.

“Our programme of exhibitions for our first year presents some of the world’s best known artists in a fresh light, contains extraordinary and never-before-seen images, uncovers the work of remarkable innovators, charts important cultural terrain and showcases the greatest contemporary portraiture.

“I am delighted to be working with such a range of incredible artists and supportive organisations to deliver our most ambitious and innovative programme to date, as we make sure the new National Portrait Gallery is more alive and exciting than ever.”