Christine Keeler: my life in pictures
4 November – 17 December 2010
Profumo Affair model Christine Keeler’s personal collection of photographs and letters to go on show this November at The Mayor Gallery, in London.
Seventy images, most of which have never been seen before, reveal the public and private face of ‘Scandal’ model Christine Keeler. Her simultaneous affairs with British War Minister John Profumo and naval attaché to the Russian Embassy in London, Eugene Ivanov, created the crucial threat to national security that brought down Macmillan’s Tory government in 1963.
The images, including contact sheets from photo-shoots by David Bailey and Brian Duffy, recreate an extraordinary story. There is an evocative colour photograph of Christine at one of the notorious Cliveden parties, her hair wet from the swimming pool; she is pictured in an elaborate showgirl costume at Murray’s cabaret club in Beak Street, Soho, in 1960, where she first met Mandy Rice-Davies. Another shows Christine with her friend Paula Hamilton Marshall, with whom she stayed during the trial, a copy of the Denning Report on the table beside them; there are portraits of her with her dog, at her dressing table, nibbling a chicken leg; a shoot taken on her first day out of jail; pin-up shots and soft-focus glamour portraits in the manner of film magazines of the day.
Also on show are letters between Christine and her parents written whilst she was serving her nine-month sentence in Holloway prison. Only 22 years old at the time, they reveal a tender relationship between Christine and her family, as she tries to reassure them about her welfare: “Don’t worry, I’m fine, in fact it’s just like being back at school, and there is a girl I went to school with”, she writes in December 1963. She even writes, in March 1964, about capitalizing on her celebrity once she has finished her sentence: “I am only young and should start on a career of some sort seeing my name is well known. I might as well carry on with it and make us lots of money ha! ha!”.
The collection of photographs and memorabilia was assembled over a 17-year period by art dealer James Birch. The exhibition will also include works by 60s artists Jean-Jaques Lebel and Bob Stanley, who made collages inspired by Keeler and her very public life. In addition there are two revealing portraits by osteopath Stephen Ward, the man responsible for introducing Christine to both Profumo and Ivanov, whom he knew through his patient, Lord Astor. Ward was a society portrait artist, who had members of the Royal Family and politicians sit for him, including The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke and Duchess of Kent and the Earl of Snowdon. His charcoal bust portraits of Christine show a fragile young woman, serious and doe-eyed, even vulnerable. There is none of the showgirl bravado with which she became associated, nor the knowing sexuality of the iconic Lewis Morley shot of Christine, astride the now famous Arne Jacobsen chair, perhaps one of the defining images of the complex sexual politics of the 60s and the eponymous illustration for scandals ever since. A signed version of this photograph is included in the exhibition.
Christine Keeler: my life in pictures exhibition details :