Anne Gunning (1929–January 1990) was an Irish fashion model. Originally a house model for Sybil Connolly, she gained global recognition after being featured on the cover of Life magazine in 1953. She was one of the three greatest British super models of her time, together with Barbara Goalen and Fiona Campbell, and one of the top models of the 1950s.
Born Helen Anne Gunning Parker in Southern Rhodesia, her father was a coffee planter with a distant link to famed eighteenth-century society beauties Maria and Elizabeth Gunning. She was raised by an aunt in England after her parents split up.
As a teenager, whilst still studying at LAMDA, she won the 1949 London Films Cup. for acting talent. Billed in the press as a ‘taller edition of Vivien Leigh’, she was signed up to a ten-year Rank movie contract, and given small parts in romantic comedies like ‘The Gay Lady’, ‘Helter-Skelter’ and Noël Coward’s ‘The Astonished Heart’. Then she landed what should have been her breakout role — as a tragically-widowed young woman in Lance Comfort’s‘Portrait of Clare’. Gunning looks ravishing in the film.
In 1948, Henry Clarke first spotted the young actress in a restaurant on the Kings Road. He asked her to pose for him; she accepted, and began to do small assignments here and there on the side, for Clarke, John French and Dick Dormer. And as her film career stalled, she quietly developed into one of London’s top models — a regular fixture in Vogue’s British and French editions, and the star of US Vogue’s 1952 couture shoots.
Then in 1953, American photographer Milton H. Greene photographed Gunning during his 1953 trip to Ireland, where he was shooting for Sybil Connolly, and Anne Gunning became the house model of Sybil Connolly.
The 10 August 1953 cover of the Life magazine featured Anne Gunning in Connolly's red Kinsale cape and white crochet evening dress, with the headline "Irish invade fashion world". This cover helped the two women gain international recognition.
For the next eight years, Gunning enjoyed exceptional success. Whilst she remained based in London, Gunning also worked in Paris and New York, working for campaigns of brands from Hermes to Sears.
Anne Gunning limited herself to photographic modelling, despite requests from designers like Coco Chanel to be a part of their stage shows. She did only one fashion show – for Sybil Connolly – as a favour. She was afraid of falling down on the stage, and remarked, "that sea of faces glaring at me was too daunting."
In her decade long modelling career, Qnne Gunning has worked with many notable photographers, including Norman Parkinson, John French and Mark Shaw. She and Barbara Mullen accompanied Parkinson to India, on an assignment for Vogue. But she formed a unique bond with Richard Dormer who kept her in the spotlight long after most of her rivals had retired.
As a great beauty, Anne Gunning has been romantically involved with some prominent men like American fashion designer Oleg Cassini and British aristocrat Colin Tennant, 2nd Baron Glenconner, confidant of Princess Margaret. Anne Gunning had a prolonged affair with Colin Tennant. In London, the two modeled for a feature for the French fashion magazine Au Jardin Des Modes (later featured in Paris Match).
She has been everything that girls dream about when they dream of becoming top models.”
On 27 May 1961, Anne Gunning married British diplomat and Conservative Party politician Anthony Nutting in Tiverton, Devon. And after her marriage, she retired from modelling.
Anne Gunning died in january 1990.