Pattie Boyd and Proud Galleries
Proud Galleries has an exclusive collection of images and photos captivating iconic faces that became the movers and shakers; heroes and villains of the 20th and 21st centuries. The collection at our photography gallery London is often identified with social change and popular culture.
Pattie Boyd is one of Proud Galleries most famous fashion icons, immortalised in portraits captured by photographer Eric Swayne in the 1960’s. Boyd’s face helped frame the swinging 60’s at a time when Britain was being hailed as the style capital of the world.
Several of these photos catch the youthful style of an awakening generation. Boyd was a role model to the girls, who flocked to London in their mothers’ twin sets and exchanged their sensible shoes for tiny mini skirts and dramatic eye make up.
Boyd the icon:
One striking image ‘In Dog Tooth Cap' captures what Tom Hibberts, journalist, described as ‘the British female look, mini skirt, long, straight hair and a wide eyed loveliness’.
‘Portrait with Hand’ captures Boyd at the height of her beauty, when she in turn captured the attention of some of the biggest names in music history, most notably George Harrison of the Beatles and Eric Clapton.
Boyd was part of a privileged class that also contained actors, pop singers, hairdressers and models. In many ways you could say her early personal achievements where overshadowed by the very public marriages and divorces to famous men like Harrison and Clapton. She had become known as the muse to rock and roll music’s biggest stars, and there’s no doubt that her fame and the rise of the Beatles go hand in hand, but let's start by first shining the spotlight on Boyd herself; a woman who represented fashion and female beauty.
Nothing captures the youthfulness, new style and rebellion of the 1960’s so much as the photos of Boyd: ‘At The Bar’ and ‘At the Bar Lounge’. The style she epitomised: caps, stripes and calf length boots, gave a post war generation the look that separated them from the conservative, austerity of their parents.
Pattie, the Model
Pattie quickly became one of the leading International models of the era, such was her popularity that fashion designer Mary Quant said that it became a requisite for contemporary women to strive: ‘to look like Pattie Boyd rather than Marlene Dietrich.’
When Boyd first came to London she worked as a shampoo girl at one of the Elizabeth Arden Inc salons where she was spotted and soon started doing regular shoots in London for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Honey, and over in Paris for ‘Elle’ magazine. The Daily Telegraph and the Times both featured her in major fashion spreads.
As the 60’s progressed and the music scene increased in importance, so did the fashion and the models that represented it. Boyd started writing for the US magazine 16, with a regular piece called: “Pattie’s Letter from London” which focused on key trends and what Boyd felt made London hip, the style of Carnaby Street, hair ideas and fashion tips. This was real advice; 60s models like Pattie, had to be fairly handy at doing their own hair and make up, it wasn’t uncommon for a photographer to send you away until you learnt how to style your hair.
The stratospheric shift for Boyd happened in 1964 when she was an extra on the Beatles A Hards Day’s Night, film. She was only 19 years old but from the moment she met George Harrison her fame became entwined with the Beatles and her life altered by the explosion of Beatlemania.
Her relationship with Harrison made her a target of hostility from female Beatles fans, particularly after she married him. To avoid some of the security risks around marriage to such a high profile rock and roll star, she allowed her career to slow down, but her fame only grew. Boyd says she had virtually given up modelling by the early 70’s.
Her marriage to Harrison sadly didn’t last, and as it came to an end she picked up her modelling career were she had left off, working alongside the fashion designer Ossie Clark and rivalling other contemporaries such as Twiggy. She appeared a series of times on the front cover of Italian and British Vogue.
Pattie, George, and the Beatles
As much as we want to shine the light on her alone, you simply can’t consider her career without considering Pattie Boyd's involvement with the Beatles.
Pattie was popular with all the rock stars. She was stunning: blonde hair, big eyes, full golden bangs, the look of naive innocence that captured the style she epitomised and that was so desired by the fashion magazines… it was only a matter of time before one of the biggest pop stars of the time was associated with her officially. That rock star would be George Harrison. The romance between Boyd and Harrison was as well documented as any modern social media celebrity wedding of today, from his famous opening line to her… ‘Will you marry me?’. She refused then, but they were married by 1966. And the legend of the muse to music’s greatest stars was born.
She directly inspired a number of Beatles love songs: George Harrison wrote I Need you, Love You Too, and For You Blue; but it was the song that Sinatra described as the greatest ever love song written, Something, from the 1969 album Abbey Road, that cemented her fame as a muse.
When asked about being at the centre of Beatlemania, Boyd stated that she wasn’t really at the centre of things, as the Beatles were away touring all the time. She felt that the travel on tour would have been terrifying for her and the other girlfriends.
As well as influencing their music, Boyd shared the same interests as the Beatles and Harrison, she was fascinated by Indian mysticism, and the Orient. The Beatles famously explored the world of transcendental meditation, dropping their suits and clean cut appearance, to adopt a more hippy aesthetic with long locks, flowing bright clothes and prayer beads.
Boyd was more involved in their creative output than purely acting as inspiration. She also appeared on film with the Fab Four, starring in the first Beatles movie, additionally she was a singer in the chorus on Yellow Submarine and on Birthday with Yoko Ono, as well as performing backup vocals in the Magical Mystery Tour album.
Boyd, Love, and Marriages
Pattie Boyd has married twice again since George Harrison. She immediately went onto marry Eric Clapton, and latterly she married property developer Rob Weston in 2015.
Eric Clapton was actually friends with George Harrison and Boyd during the 60’s and rumour at the time was that he employed voodoo charms to lure Pattie Boyd away from Harrison… it doesn’t get much more rock and roll than that.
Like many before and many after, the lifestyles of the rich and famous often come at the cost of marriages, but there is a few remarkable things about this love triangle, notably the fact that after Boyd married Clapton, they remained friendly with George Harrison and during Harrison’s divorce from Boyd, it was said by Pattie Boyd’s Solicitor "There was no overreacting, no greed or playing with each other's emotions – I wish all divorces were so well handled."
However, the road to both of these events wasn’t entirely smooth and there are accounts of duelling guitar battles, secret love letters and illicit declarations of love all wrapped up with the usual rock and roll stories of hedonism, drugs and alcoholism.
Clapton infamously descended into heroin addiction after his early attempts to win Boyd's heart had failed, but later cleaned up his act (to some degree - he is said to have swapped drugs for drink), and penned one of the masterpieces of modern music history with his 1971 declaration of love for Pattie Boyd, by the title Layla. They married in 1979.
It is worth noting that Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was also penned for Boyd as he waited for her to get ready one evening. We have a lot to thank Pattie Boyd for.
Despite such a hard-won and romantically framed pursuit, true love would have lasted… but the couple divorced in 1989. Both parties struggled with alcohol addiction and Clapton was abusive, having numerous affairs which resulted in children with other women. Pattie Boyd suspected that Clapton's pursuit of her when she was married to George Harrison had more to do with the competitive aspect of the two musicians' friendship, and that "Eric just wanted what George had.”
Eric Swayne and Pattie Boyd
Things could have been different… when Pattie Boyd met Harrison on set, she was actually going out with Eric Swayne.
Boyd has reflected on London in the 60’s and being there with Eric, remembering nights of pure magic, such as a meeting with Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev as he preformed for them at his flat. Parading up and down the Kings Road and Portobello Road, and through Notting Hill. A time when people where friendly and you spoke to strangers, and everyone looked glamorous.
Eric Swayne (1932 - 2007) took up photography when he was 29. He was friends with the good and the great of the photography world; forming an early friendship with Brian Duffy, Bailey and Donovan. This was 1960’s London and things where happening that had never happened before, and Swayne took advantage of every opportunity to pursue his lifelong passion.
Eric Swayne was meeting everyone that there was to meet, and he started to capture images of the circles of people he was friends with, his north London studio became frequented by the likes of: Keith Richards, Mich Jagger, Mary Quant.
He didn’t have any formal training, so his style was informal and open, helping to capture the person casually in the moment, but he also captured the unique culture that was developing around him in 1960’s London.
Swayne left an impressive body of work over the course of his career. He shot for Italian Vouge, Queen and Vanity Fair, but some of his best images where shot for himself; of his friends, a viewpoint from his ringside seat of the 60’s. He shot the movers and the shakers just as they became brilliant, as legends were being born, though they themselves didn’t know it yet.
After Swayne died in 2007, his son found his father’s collection of unpublished works. Tom Swayne wrote: “Some of the sweetest images showed my father’s great loves - of which, being the Sixties, there were many. The portraits of Pattie Boyd, one of his big romances before she left him in 1964 for George Harrison, tugged at my heartstrings. But at least she’d created a space for my mother, Shirley Ann; herself a Vogue model.”
See also: our feature on icon Chris Stein!
Pattie Boyd and Photography
Pattie had been immersed in the artistic world since she was a young woman, but she stands now as an exhibitor of her own work including photos that she took during the 60’s whilst being married to two of history’s greatest musicians and as the model that everyone wanted to work with. She had a unique position to observe the scene around her - and this lends her work an intimate and authentic quality.
Her creative force didn’t come out straight away, her early photography was a personal hobby but in several interviews Boyd commented on how after the second divorce, she was “completely and utterly at a loss at what to do with my life, I was so blinded by the confusion that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, which was my little camera“.
The interested may have started as a young child, an early photo of her at the age of ten caught her showing an interest in a tripod. A few years later and she’d become friends with some of the biggest names in photography.
She couldn’t help but be drawn into the artistic scene and bought her own camera, and learned techniques and tricks from the like of David Bailey who used to shoot her for Vouge.
These influences have stayed with her over the years and she still looks to Bailey and Donovan as key inspiration as well as the famous street photographer pioneer Cartier-Bresson.
Bailey taught her what to look for through the camera, how to use light and angles. She learned the creative freedom that a studio can allow you to have, the way it gives you control - allowing you to light the subject in the way you think is best and to tell a story.
This informal education stood Boyd in good stead, and without realising it she stockpiled a large collection of band pictures of the most desirable people of the time; her social group and close friends, and a couple of husbands.
Boyd was asked if she would enjoy an exhibition, and her first response was no, believing her work wasn’t good enough, but she eventually agreed and her first exhibition took place in San Fransico in 2005, going onto tour the world. Other exhibitions followed, and a book.
When asked what she thought photography offered that other artistic outlets did not, Pattie said: “I think it has the ability to capture something that will never be the same again. It can capture a second of life that will never be the same”.
At Proud we display Eric Swayne’s early images showing Pattie Boyd as the cover girl of a generation, in intimate and professional poses that capture the mood of youth awakening. A moment in time that will surely never be the same.