Home > Website archive > News and media > News archives > 2010 > 09 > George Bernard Shaw's photographs revealed

George Bernard Shaw's photographs revealed

Sixty years after the death of playwright, critic and polemicist George Bernard Shaw, thousands of photographs from a previously largely unseen collection are shedding new light on his life and times.  

In a partnership project between the National Trust and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), conservation, cataloguing and digitisation work has been taking place to make available this extensive collection. These images are now being made available to see online.

Shaw (1856-1950), one of LSE's founders, was a keen and respected photographer. He amassed around 20,000 photographic objects during his long lifetime, including prints, negatives and albums.  

Shaw at workMuch of the collection is owned by the National Trust to whom Shaw left his home on his death. Many of the items are in a fragile condition and conservation work has been undertaken to prevent further deterioration.  

Since 1979, the collection has been housed within the Archives Division at LSE which is carrying out the work, but only recently has funding been available for the project allowing the public to see Shaw's photographs at last.  

Around seventy per cent of the photographs in the collection were taken by Shaw and images include some of the greatest writers, actors, artists, heroes and personalities of his age.  

Film stars such as Vivien Leigh and Stewart Granger, and dramatist Harley Granville Barker, are featured, along with stage and film sets of Shaw's plays. There are also images of writers and musicians including HG Wells, JM Barrie and Edward Elgar. 

Photographs of leading socialist and political figures range from Sidney and Beatrice Webb, co-founders with Shaw of LSE, to Lady Nancy Astor, MP. There are also fascinating photographs of Shaw's travels with his wife Charlotte through Europe, New Zealand and South Africa. 

Other photographs in the collection include images taken by TE Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia'), a close friend of Shaw and his wife, during his participation in the Arab Revolt (1916-18).  

National Trust curator for the East of England, Fiona Hall, said: 'For me, the most interesting aspect revealed in the collection is the contrast between 'GBS' the public figure and 'Bernard Shaw' the private man. There are many portraits of Shaw himself, both self-portraits and those taken by others.  

Shaw playing the piano'The shots of GBS the celebrity show him unsmiling, dressed smartly and holding a prop such as a cane. More intimate shots show him relaxed, surfing, picnicking, and striking poses from famous sculptures, including Rodin's Thinker. There are even several shots of Shaw naked, some taken on the beach by either his wife or Granville Barker. He clearly had a highly developed sense of fun and was very comfortable with his public and private personas.'

Head of Archives at LSE, Sue Donnelly, added: 'Previously we had to wade through piles of unsorted photographs to view these gems – this project harnesses digital technology to bring an amazing collection of images to a wider audience. The huge range of Shaw's interests means there is something for everybody in the collection.' 

The first images from the project can be viewed now online at http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/shawphotos and more will be added as the work progresses. The project will be complete in summer 2011 when around two thirds of the collection will be available to view.


For further press information, please contact:

Claire Graves, National Trust Communications Officer, 01284 747557, 07770 645230 Claire.graves@nationaltrust.org.uk

Alison Dalby, National Trust Press Officer, 01793 817780 or 07824 418351, alison.dalby@nationaltrust.org.uk

Warwick Smith, LSE Head of Press and Information, 020 7955 7440, m 07515 190722 w.smith@lse.ac.uk

 8 September 2010