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Ida Kar at National Portrait Gallery London closes 19 June

— June 2011

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Bridget Riley photographed by Ida Kar

Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer 1908–74 is nearing the end of its successful run at London's National Portrait Gallery

Ida Kar was born of Armenian parentage in Tambov, near Moscow, Russia. She studied in Paris in 1928 where she was influenced by the prevailing avant-garde currents. She went on to establish her photographic practice 'Idabel' in Cairo with her first husband Edmond Belali in 1933. In 1945 she moved to London with her second husband, the artist and critic Victor Musgrave who opened Gallery One in London.

 Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer, 1908–74 charts the photographer’s life and career from her first studio in Cairo in the late 1930s to her move to London in 1945, where she was introduced to the British art world through the family of Jacob Epstein and her husband, Victor. Her first solo exhibition in London, Forty Artists from London and Paris, at Musgrave’s Gallery One in 1954, included perceptive and sympathetic studies of the artists Stanley Spencer, Tsugouharu Foujita, Alberto Giacometti, Man Ray and Le Corbusier.

Material on display from the photographer’s archive (acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, including over 800 of Kar’s vintage prints and 10, 000 negatives) includes letters, a sitters’ book and a portfolio book made in 1954 of her trip to the artists’ studios of ParisHer later work includes the leading artists of the St Ives modern art movement (Tatler, 26 July 1961), featuring Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Barbara Hepworth and Terry Frost, and her documentary portraits of Soho bohemia in the 1950s and early 1960s includes The Farm Coffee Shop and artists associated with her husband’s Gallery One. Kar’s portrait of Fidel Castro, included as a contact sheet, taken in Cuba of 1964, demonstrates her political interests and her engagement in promoting her work abroad.

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