Rare photographs of famous faces from British theatre go on display at the University of Bristol
Press release issued: 7 November 2013
World-renowned photographer Angus McBean took photographic portraits of some of the most famous faces in twentieth century British theatre. A fine selection of these goes on display at Royal Fort House next week as part of InsideArts, the University of Bristol's festival of the arts and humanities.
Faces of Theatre: Portrait Photographs by Angus McBean and John Vickers, a collaborative venture between the University's Theatre Collection and students at the University, runs for one week only from Monday 11 November.
The exhibition displays some exceptional examples of the work of famous photographer Angus McBean and his less well known associate John Vickers. A remarkable body of work by both photographers is held at the Theatre Collection and the exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to see some of these prints together for the first time.
Perhaps most famous for his surrealist photographs and the seminal album cover of The Beatles' Please Please Me LP, Angus McBean had a long career as a theatre photographer, starting with Ivor Novello’s production of The Happy Hypocrite in 1936. He then went on to become the primary photographer for the Old Vic Theatre in London as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford. With a career spanning more than five decades, McBean photographed everyone who was anyone in the theatre world.
On display in the exhibition will be his portrait photographs of several famous faces, including Richard Attenborough, Noel Coward, Vivien Leigh and the man behind the voice of Bristol’s most famous cartoon export, Wallace: Peter Sallis.
A selection of works by the lesser known John Vickers will also be shown. Vickers started his career working as an assistant to McBean in the 1930s, and Faces of Theatre will seek to illustrate the influence McBean had over Vickers artistic oeuvre. Like McBean, Vickers also became the photographer of choice for the London Old Vic and in his time he photographed over 1,000 theatre productions. His images of stars such as John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh brought him great acclaim.
Jo Elsworth, Director of the Theatre Collection said: "It is very exciting to display such a stunning selection of Angus McBean photographs, and to know that many of them have not been on public display here before. They were all hand-printed by McBean in his studio, and show his absolute mastery of photographic technique and lighting. He passed these skills onto his studio assistant, John Vickers, whose work is also on display and clearly shows his influence."
Faces of Theatre runs from Monday 11 to Friday 15 November from 10am-4pm daily in the Drawing Room of Royal Fort House. Entry is free and all are welcome.
About the University of Bristol Theatre Collection
The Theatre Collection is an accredited museum and one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre history. It was founded in 1951 to serve the newly formed Drama Department (the first in any UK university) and is now an internationally renowned research facility open to all. Its Collections cover all areas of theatre history from 1572 up to the present day and it continues to grow to reflect all aspects of theatre and performance. The Collections encompass a wide range of formats including documents, photographs, artwork, artefacts and audio visual and digital media.
In 2011 the Theatre Collection acquired the Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Collection, which contains more than half a million archive items plus artwork, photographs and props. Mander and Mitchenson had been friends with Angus McBean (1904-1990) and their collection contains several hundred production and portrait photographs taken by McBean and subsequently given to them. Most of these prints have not been on public display before. This collection is enhanced by additional Angus McBean photographs held within the John Vickers and London Old Vic Archives at the Theatre Collection.
John Vickers (1916-1976) was a renowned photographer, whose work primarily concentrated on theatre. The Theatre Collection holds his archive which also contains his creative output comprising around 21,000 prints, 16,500 glass plate negatives, 20,000 film negatives and 1,800 slides as well as boxes of manuscript material (containing business and personal records, appointment books and indexes to the photographs).