Model Image: Fashion and photos from the 1950s @ Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool
The Lady Lever Art Gallery, nestled amongst the calm and character of Port Sunlight, is the temporary home of an insight into the elegance and enchantment which is associated with the style of the 1950’s. With this comes the opportunity to delve into the life of locally born fashion model, June Duncan (1924-2014).
Born in Mossley Hill Liverpool, she lived a whirlwind of success and glamour. The exhibition serves to tell Duncan’s story, with the help of her sister Barbara, and her collection of June’s memoirs and both published and unpublished photos. Photographed by some of the most famous and coveted photographers of the time, including John French, Eugène Vernier, Hans Wild and Noel Mayne, who also photographed the likes of Audrey Hepburn, it is clear to see the impression this local woman had on the world of fashion and haute couture.
This rare glimpse into the life of the local success story allows a captivating picture to be built, exploring her beginnings, her career highlights, her personal accounts of life as a high fashion model and also, the opportunity to see authentic 1950’s evening gowns supplied by the National Museums Liverpool’s decorative arts collection. These elements together achieve a real sense of the period, while appreciating the life of an iconic figure of the high fashion world which has since developed into something somewhat unrecognisable in comparison.
With beginnings as a shy child who began dance classes to increase her confidence, Duncan went on to secure regular appearances on Liverpool’s Empire and Playhouse theatre stages, which gave her the skills and recognition to begin her modelling career. This soon lead her to becoming one of the most regular faces in fashion magazines across Europe including British and French Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. Speaking of the exhibition, Senior Curator Pauline Rushton describes how Duncan summed up the experience through her work, and explains how the evocative photographs which are displayed are the perfect opportunity to experience the refined grace of the decade. Not only is the exhibition the chance to appreciate the life of June Duncan, we are also invited to explore the history of 50’s fashion through her work, within gone-by sources such as Queen Magazine, which ceased to be printed in the 1960’s, as well as recognising links between Liverpool’s history and its presence today through fashion, photography and the local areas which Duncan has imprinted her legacy within.
The exhibition has brought with it the opportunity to become immersed in a variety of free events in relation to the glamorous fashion world which June herself experienced. Talks with Senior Curator Pauline Rushton will take place each month, as well as workshops including 1950’s style accessory customisation, photography, 1950’s hair and makeup, as well as performances from the Wirral Theatre School and Jeremy Sassoon Duo, who are bringing swing, Rat Pack and jump jive from the 1950’s and into the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
More information about all events, as well as tickets, can be found at liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/modelimage.