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Exhibition reveals artists as the subjects of portraits

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 28, 2013

Photographer Ida Kar's portrait of herself in 1962, above, and of leading artists, clockwise from top left, Sir Stanley Spencer (in 1954), Patrick Heron, Bernard Leach and Barbara Hepworth (all in 1961)

Photographer Ida Kar's portrait of herself in 1962, above, and of leading artists, clockwise from top left, Sir Stanley Spencer (in 1954), Patrick Heron, Bernard Leach and Barbara Hepworth (all in 1961)

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Striking portraits of artists who pioneered the modernist movement in St Ives are among a collection of photographs that have gone on show in Plymouth.

Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost and Bernard Leach were all captured by the lens of avant-garde photographer Ida Kar during the early 1960s.

The exhibition at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery charts Kar's career from her early days in Paris to the height of her success in London. She spent some time in West Cornwall during the 1960s, where she set up a series of portrait sessions with some of the town's prominent modern painters and sculptors. The result of a commission from Tatler, her photographs first appeared in the magazine under the title Le Quartier St Ives.

A number of paintings by St Ives artists from Plymouth City Museum's collection are hung alongside Kar's portraits.

Exhibitions co-ordinator Kate Johnson said: "Despite receiving critical acclaim from her contemporaries, Ida Kar remains surprisingly little known today, yet she was instrumental in encouraging the acceptance of photography as fine art. Her portraits offer a fascinating insight into post-war cultural life and her subjects include some of the most celebrated figures from the literary and art worlds of 1950s and 1960s Europe, Russia and St Ives."

Born in Russia to Armenian parents in 1908, Ida Kar studied in Paris, before moving to Cairo in the 1930s and to London in 1945, where she met her husband, Victor Musgrave, a poet, art dealer and curator. Her first solo exhibition in London was called Forty Artists From London And Paris, while a retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1960 brought her much critical success. She died in London in 1974.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, which commissioned the current retrospective, said: "Ida Kar was a great portrait photographer and a fascinating, cosmopolitan figure who documented the post-war cultural scene. Following on from our own exhibition, I am delighted that we have been able to work with Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery to continue to bring her work to a wider audience."

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is holding a lunchtime talk by Clare Freestone, associate curator of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, on Tuesday January 29.

Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer is at Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery until April 13. Admission is free. For more information visit www.plymouthmuseum. gov.uk

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