Topolski has created a fusion of images representing Britain in the 1950s and 1960s.
He has also included a visit he made to French Indo-China in 1950 and images of his friends the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi. The British actors Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier are depicted playing Falstaff and Prince Hal in a touring production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. Also included are writers Edith Sitwell and Evelyn Waugh, painter Pablo Picasso, philanthropist Nubar Gulbenkian, and, at the top, an aged Winston Churchill. These are contrasted with the philosopher Bertrand Russell whose campaigns for the anti- nuclear organisation CND are represented. Another contrast is made with the inclusion of Lady Astor, who Topolski knew, to symbolise the Profumo affair which led to the resignation of the Conservative Cabinet Minister John Profumo and severely damaged Harold Macmillan’s government.
Some of these images are reproduced from two significant portrait commissions Topolski received in this period. Between 1959 and 1962 Topolski created portraits of 33 iconic figures for the BBC Television programme ‘Face to Face’, including Nubar Gulbenkian, seen here, Martin Luther King, Jomo Kenyatta and King Hussein of Jordan (all depicted later in the Century).
In 1960, the Harry Ransom Research Center at the University of Texas commissioned from him portraits of twenty great living British authors. These included Edith Sitwell and Evelyn Waugh, seen in the Century, as well as John Betjeman, Graham Greene, Stephen Spender and Rebecca West.