Blitz kids: Behind the makeup

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt / National Portrait Gallery, London
image captionDavid Gwinnutt (L) with Quentin Crisp

The artist and photographer David Gwinnutt was part of the 1980s art scene that centred around the Blitz club in London's Covent Garden, leading to the creatives who frequented it being dubbed the "Blitz kids".

Although they were known for their flamboyant makeup and performances, Gwinnutt captured these young men and women relaxing around their homes, which were often squats or rented council houses.

Against a backdrop of the economic recession and unemployment of the early 1980s, some of these club-goers went on to become established artists and film-makers in their own right.

"Derek Jarman [the experimental British filmmaker] really liked the photographs I had taken of him and asked me who I'd most like to photograph. I said David Bowie," Gwinnutt remembered about this photograph.

"He laughed and said I should photograph John Maybury."

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionJohn Maybury

Maybury was also a film-maker, who used theatrical themes and visuals in his work.

The portrait above was taken as he smoked his first cigarette of the day in his Camden flat.

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionGilbert & George in their London home

Gilbert & George are artists who have spent their lives as "living sculptures", wearing sharp suits and making their entire existence a performance, down to claiming to eat in the same Turkish restaurant every evening.

Gwinnutt met them at Planets nightclub in Piccadilly and, noticing how they stood out from the crowd in their neat suits, asked to photograph them in their East London home.

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionCerith Wyn Evans

The artist Cerith Wyn Evans stands on the set of his film Epiphany, which took inspiration from the London club scene and starred friends such as the flamboyant performance artist Leigh Bowery.

In the image below, the artist Maggi Hambling looks in the mirror while smoking at a sink.

She is best known for her sculpture on Aldeburgh beach dedicated to Benjamin Britten, as well as another sculptural "conversation" with Oscar Wilde, located near Trafalgar Square.

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionMaggi Hambling
image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionDavid Holah

In this photograph (above), co-founder of the fashion label BodyMap, David Holah, reclines on a sofa during a dinner party in Bloomsbury.

At the time of this photograph below, Norman Rosenthal was the Exhibitions Secretary of the Royal Academy in London.

Sensation, an exhibition he curated for the Academy in 1997, featured the work of Cerith Wyn Evans amongst others.

The picture was taken in Rosenthal's flat opposite the Academy, which was so sparsely furnished the curator and art historian was forced to sit on the floor.

Although Rosenthal was reclining, Gwinnutt recalled, "I felt all the time that he was observing me."

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionSir Norman Rosenthal
image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionAlison Owen

The film producer Alison Owen, mother of singer Lily Allen, stands in a doorway in the mid 1980s.

Since this was taken, she has worked on films such as Shaun of the Dead, The Other Boleyn Girl and Brick Lane.

Although known for his flamboyant dress sense and immaculate makeup, fashion designer Stephen Linard is seen below in bed in his Kings Cross flat.

On graduating from St Martin's School of Art, his first catwalk show of "mean and moody menswear" propelled him to overnight success.

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionStephen Linard

The man at the centre of this artistic scene, Derek Jarman [below] stares intensely down the camera lens while his protégé John Maybury stands behind him.

"Using only his handheld camera and natural light, Gwinnutt's grainy black and white photographs feel unguarded and spontaneous," said curator Sabina Jaskot-Gill of the National Portrait Gallery, "offering a glimpse into the private worlds of these rising stars who lived, worked and played together".

"Gwinnutt's photographs serve as a social document of a moment that had far-reaching effects on the cultural landscape."

image copyrightDavid Gwinnutt
image captionDerek Jarman and John Maybury

David Gwinnutt: Before We Were Men runs at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 March-24 September 2017.

Related Topics