18 March 2013
These are the memoirs of a cultural icon. Here, told for the first time, is the story of the formative years of Sir Roy Strong, ‘a young man from nowhere who went somewhere.’
The story opens in a 1920s’ suburban street in North London, with the dysfunctional and emotionally stunted Strong family. It follows him through grammar school and university, where together with a generation of postwar ‘meritocrats’ like Alan Bennett and David Hockney, his passion for learning was awakened and nourished.
We catch glimpses of seminal experiences, such as his first outings to the theatre, opera and ballet, and his first trip abroad to Italy, which was to have a lasting influence on his sensibilities. He explores key, sometimes painful relationships with his family, his school teacher with whom he had a lifelong correspondence, and his debt to such luminaries as C.V. Wedgwood, A.L. Rowse, Frances Yates and Cecil Beaton.
In Self-Portrait as a Young Man we glimpse a vanished world dominated by class and hierarchy up which he climbed. As a backdrop we have the transformation of London from the drab, postwar world of the 1950s to the epicentre of fashion in the 1960s, and the development of Sir Roy’s distinctive sartorial style, inspired by the burgeoning shops on Carnaby Street.
Richly illustrated with drawings, letters, photographs and other archival material, this is an honest and compelling portrait of a young man about to step into the limelight of the British cultural scene he helped to modernize and in which he plays a leading role.
Sir Roy Strong is a writer, historian, broadcaster, diarist and gardener. Sir Roy has pledged his fascinating archive to the Bodleian Libraries. It is a comprehensive record of his life and involvement in running two national museums, his many friendships and acquaintances with notable individuals and also a full and fascinating record of the creation of his celebrated garden.