Thursday - 28 August 2014

Angus McBean’s archive for sale

12 March 2013Written by Roland Arkell

Hundreds of gelatin silver studio prints by the society and theatre photographer Angus McBean (1904-90) will be sold by Lacy Scott & Knight of Bury St Edmunds in a stand-alone sale on April 12.

Close to 400 prints, many of them signed, dated and annotated with information relating to the performance or film to which they relate, have been consigned for sale by McBean's life partner and studio assistant David Ball who is now moving abroad.

The rollcall of stars who sat for McBean in his London studio can be gleaned from a visitors' book included in the sale containing over 1000 signatures from the 1940s onwards.

The autographs range from silver screen goddesses such as Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn, revered actors John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier (who states that the "rice puddings are excellent") to very early Beatles signatures, written (before they developed a signature style) when McBean shot the album cover for Please, Please Me in the stairwell of EMI's London headquarters.

This visitors' book will be the only lot in the sale to carry a reserve and a published estimate (£5000-10,000).

McBean, the subject of a touring exhibition that began at the National Portrait Gallery in 2006, famously photographed Vivien Leigh on countless occasions, recording almost every stage and studio performance from 1936, when he was invited by Ivor Novello to produce a set of production stills for The Happy Hypocrite. The latest portraits are from a studio sitting just three weeks before she died in 1967.

Many of these images will be offered for sale at what was, in the last decades of his life, McBean's local auction room. There are also a small number of studio accessories including props and furniture made by McBean.

McBean began a short-lived retirement in the 1970s when he moved to Suffolk to restore a spectacular moated house, Flemmings Hall, in Bedingfield near Eye. For ten years he gave up work as a professional photographer, instead choosing to give guided tours of his home and restore antiques for the shop he and David Ball ran in Debenham. By his 80th birthday McBean was restoring his second medieval house in the county.

Tel: +44 (0) 1284 748623

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