Photographer’s legacy of pictures

A major collection of portrait photographs by the late John Hedgecoe, who restored Oxnead Hall, near Aylsham, has been given to the Sainsbury Centre by his family. Ian Collins admires a celebratory exhibition.

Scores of brilliant portraits of artists and writers by Britain's most popular post-war photographer have now being given to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and his adopted Norfolk.

But John Hedgecoe's main claim to fame lies in a likeness selling 200 billion tiny copies by the time of his death last year. The image, er, sticks around.

In June 1966 he undertook a 20-minute shoot in the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace – depicting the monarch in profile in the 14th year of her reign.

The Queen selected her preferred picture and the sculptor Arnold Machin made a plaster bust, which Hedgecoe then snapped for the postage stamps in use to this day.

Thanks to those 45 years of mass production the royal portrait is believed to be the most frequently reproduced image – of anyone or anything – in the world.

He had immense success with books and in magazines and newspapers, so much so that in 1988 he was able to buy historic and semi-derelict Oxnead Hall near Aylsham – principal home of the Paston clan centuries before, and repository of the Paston letters written during the Wars of the Roses.

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After Hedgecoe's death, aged 78, his family wanted to find a permanent home for his photographs, and due to his love of Norfolk and the fact that many of the artists he depicted are represented in the Sainsbury Centre's permanent collection, the UEA treasurehouse was the perfect choice.

Now, to celebrate the acquisition, there is an exhibition of images complemented by a small group of related paintings, sculptures and ceramics from the Sainsbury Collection.

For the full story about John Hedgecoe's work and some of his photographs that will form part of the exhibition see the EDP Sunday supplement in tomorrow's EDP.

The Face of the Artist: Photographs by John Hedgecoe can be seen at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (telephone 01603 593199; website from Tuesday until December 4. Until August 28 the display is being shown alongside that of A World Observed 1940-2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm. Admission to both exhibitions costs �4, concessions �2 (entry to the permanent collection remains free). Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

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