DOROTHY WILDING (1893-1976)

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QUEEN ELIZABETH II, APRIL 1952 by DOROTHY WILDING (1893-1976) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, APRIL 1952

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PRINCESS ELIZABETH AND PHILIP MOUNTBATTEN, DUKE OF EDINBURGH, ENGAGEMENT PORTRAIT, 1947 by DOROTHY WILDING (1893-1976) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PRINCESS ELIZABETH AND PHILIP MOUNTBATTEN, DUKE OF EDINBURGH, ENGAGEMENT PORTRAIT, 1947

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PRINCESS ELIZABETH, WEDDING PORTRAIT, 1947 by DOROTHY WILDING (1893-1976) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PRINCESS ELIZABETH, WEDDING PORTRAIT, 1947

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PRINCESS ELIZABETH IN HER UNIFORM FOR THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE, 1945 by DOROTHY WILDING (1893-1976) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PRINCESS ELIZABETH IN HER UNIFORM FOR THE AUXILIARY TERRITORIAL SERVICE, 1945

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PRINCESS ELIZABETH IN HER SEA RANGER UNIFORM, 1943 by DOROTHY WILDING (1893-1976) - photograph for sale from Beetles & Huxley

PRINCESS ELIZABETH IN HER SEA RANGER UNIFORM, 1943

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Dorothy Wilding was a preeminent female portrait photographer in London during the first half of the 20th century. Famed for both her society portraits and her nudes, she experienced a meteoric rise in fame and demand, culminating in her becoming the photographer of choice to the British Royal Family from 1937.

Dorothy Wilding was born on 10 January 1893 in Gloucestershire, the youngest of ten children. She was an unwanted child and, aged four, she was passed to a childless aunt who lived in Cheltenham. An early ambition to become an actress was quickly thwarted by her uncle, and so Wilding settled on becoming a photographer, teaching herself the basic skills such as printing and retouching. She moved to London and became apprenticed to a photographic retoucher in Knightsbridge, before opening up her first studio in Portman Square in 1915.

Her photographic skill and steely ambition meant that she quickly became sought after by London society a sitting with the Selfridge family in particular helped her star to climb. Her first Royal assignment was in 1927, when she photographed the young Prince George, who later became the Duke of Kent. By the 1930s she had moved premises to a large studio in Old Bond Street and in 1937 she photographed the new King George VI and Queen Mary a royal warrant following swiftly that same year.

In addition to her work for the Royal Family, Wilding had also become one of the most popular portrait photographers amongst the significant cultural and political figures of the day. This was aided by her opening a second studio in New York in the late 1930s, taking on an exhausting trans-Atlantic schedule in the process. Her sitters included Nancy Astor, Tallulah Bankhead, Noël Coward, Aldous Huxley, William Somerset Maugham and a host of other celebrated names. In 1952 Wilding was commissioned to photograph Queen Elizabeth II, shortly after her accession to the throne. The images were used for a series of well-known (and now very collectable) stamps.

Dorothy Wilding died on 9 February 1976 in relative obscurity, after having closed her Old Bond Street studio in 1958.

Giles Huxley-Parlour

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