Julia Trevelyan Oman Archive


Julia Trevelyan Oman CBE (1930-2003) was one of the most celebrated theatre, television, ballet and opera designers of the second half of the twentieth century. Her personal archive covers her entire career and includes her original designs with research files, technical drawings and plans, research photographs, production photographs, correspondence and fabric swatches.

Julia graduated from the Royal College of Art (School of Interior Design) in 1955, and then worked at the BBC for nearly 12 years, working on a wide variety of programmes, from the Sooty Show to serious drama. She won the equivalent of a BAFTA in 1967 for her work on Jonathan Miller’s Alice in Wonderland, and thenceforth worked as a freelance. Notable early successes included the plays Brief Lives and 40 Years On (written by and starring Alan Bennett), and the Frederick Ashton ballet The Enigma Variations, the idea for which had originally been suggested by Julia to Ashton. Her cinematic work included Julius Caesar, with John Gielgud in the title role, The Charge of the Light Brigade, and Straw Dogs, but it was not a milieu which suited her, and her later work centred on theatre, ballet and opera.

Her 1974 La Boheme was the first of several operatic successes at Covent Garden (later successes being Eugene Onegin and Die Fledermaus), and her ballet design work included Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Her work in the theatre included The Merchant of Venice at the National (starring the Oliviers, and directed by Jonathan Miller), Othello for the RSC, Hay Fever, Wild Duck, A Man for All Seasons, Mr & Mrs Nobody, Best of Friends and Beatrix. She also collaborated on many books with her husband, providing drawings and watercolour to complement his texts.

What the collection holds

The Julia Trevelyan Oman archive contains the entire adult corpus of work of one of the most highly-rated theatre, opera and ballet designers of her day.  Julia kept everything from her art college days onwards, and not only kept it, but ordered it properly, and took steps to preserve it. Available to view are all her research notes and photographs alongside finished designs complete with swatches in a high level of detail. It is possible through this archive to truly understand the way in which this talented designer worked. The archive charts her career through her work in television and film as well as theatre, ballet and opera. The archive was donated to the Theatre Collection in 2004 by the late Ms Oman’s husband, Sir Roy Strong.

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: 
JTO - The Julia Trevlyan Oman Archive

The online catalogue is currently unavailable while additional material from the Julia Trevelyan Oman archive is catalogued. Please contact theatre-collection@bristol.ac.uk for more information about this archive. It is still available to be viewed in our reading room.

Further information

Julia Trevelyan Oman
Julia Trevelyan Oman self-portrait c.1950 Image credit: University of Bristol Theatre Collection
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