Audrey Hepburn by Philippe Halsman for LIFE magazine, 1954 ©Philipe Halsman/Magnum Photos
Bridget Arsenault
July 02, 2015

Like her oversized black sunglasses and perfectly tailored Givenchy dress, Audrey Hepburn never goes out of style. Today, London’s National Portrait Gallery opens Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon, a look into the actress’s life that already has lines of people snaking around Trafalgar Square.

A well-rounded examination of the seminal figure, this photography spans her career, exploring her role as an actress, dancer, fashion icon and humanitarian. It’s the first U.K. exhibition created with the support of the Audrey Hepburn Estate and two of Hepburn’s sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer. Pulling from previously unseen family albums, film stills, as well as portraits by the 20th century’s top photographers—including Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean, Irving Penn, Terry O’Neill and Norman Parkinson—the exhibition is as intimate as it is engaging.

“We are thrilled to be able to support this comprehensive and beautifully curated exhibition dedicated to our mother, as it allows me and my brother, Sean, to grasp fragments of an otherwise unreachable past,” Luca Dotti told the National Portrait Gallery. “The experience is all the more rewarding as the exhibition strives to go behind the scenes, and give us rare insights into the making of Audrey Hepburn, from her London debut and her rise to stardom in the ‘50s and ‘60s, to the last season of her life.”

Rarely, if ever, does a conversation about style unspool without reference to the Belgian beauty. Revered for her elegance and grace, Hepburn began her career as a chorus girl on London’s West End stage. Stunning audiences with her audacious stage performance in Gigi (1951), Hepburn went on to lead some of the most acclaimed films of the 1950s and 1960s, and holds the accolade of being the first actress to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for a single performance, for Roman Holiday (1953). She worked tirelessly as a Unicef ambassador from 1988 until 1993, a role that won her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992.

Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon is on at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from July 2-October 18, 2015.

Bridget Arsenault is the associate editor, print and digital at Vanity Fair UK. and the co-director of the Bright Young Things Film Club. She covers the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure; follow her on Twitter at @bridget_ruth.

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