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Sir Cecil Beaton was one of the leading British photographers of the twentieth century. Beaton’s early studio portraits of debutantes and celebrities often involved elaborate theatrical backdrops, and helped define the image of the ‘bring young thing’. Beaton was also an acclaimed designer for film and the stage, including My Fair Lady (1956), the musical based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. He won three Oscars for costume and art direction for the film version of My Fair Lady (1965) and for Gigi (1958). A major retrospective of Beaton’s portraits in 1968 was the first exhibition the National Portrait Gallery had devoted to a photographer.

Hugo Vickers became Cecil Beaton’s authorised biographer at Beaton’s own request, and was given access to voluminous unpublished material. Yet because Beaton died two days after commissioning his new biographer, Vickers was subject to none of the usual restrictions. His book was an instant number one best-seller and soon became indispensable to anyone interested in the artistic and social world of the twentieth century.

Time Out London