Katharine Hepburns record four Best Actress Academy Awards will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery
Aug. 4, offering visitors a unique, close-up look at the Oscar and how it has changed over the years.Hepburn won the first of her Best Actress Academy Awards for the 1933 film Morning Glory. This statuette on display is a legend in itself. A young Hollywood journalist named Sidney Skolsky, in writing his story about the proceedings of the 1934 Academy Awards, borrowed a colloquial stage name often used among performers and wrote, Katharine Hepburn received the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Morning Glory. Consequently, this statuette was the first to be named Oscar.
The Oscar statuette was designed in 1927 by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons and sculpted by George Stanley. The figure stands on a film reel with five spokes, signifying the original branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. Hepburn won her next three Best Actress Academy Awards for Guess Whos Coming to Dinner (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968) and On Golden Pond (1981). The actress lost her original Oscar for The Lion in Winter, and the Academy replaced it. These three Hepburn Oscars are different from her earliest: In 1945, the statuettes pedestal was raised and since then, the Oscars height has remained 13½ inches and weighs 8½ pounds; and while the first statuette was made of gold-plated bronze, it is now composed of alloy britannia and coated in 24-karat gold.
All four Oscars will be on view on the third floor of the National Portrait Gallery in the permanent exhibition Twentieth-Century Americans, next to Hepburns 1982 portrait by Everett Raymond Kinstler.