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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Angus McBean

Dates:  1904, 8 June - 1990, 9 June
Born:  Great Britain, Wales, Gwent, Newbridge
Active:  UK
Portrait and theatrical photography.

Preparing biographies

Biography provided by Focal Press 
Born in South Wales, McBean studied architecture before settling for a banking clerk’s job. By 1925 family circumstances forced him to move to London where he worked for a prominent antiques dealer for seven years (sales and restoration). He learned photography from Hugh Cecil and began constructing and photographing masks. This series of events lead to McBean’s eventual talent as one of the world’s leading theatrical photographers. He is best known for his work constructing elaborate studio sets, mask making, costuming, manipulation techniques — all to produce personality and stage production images that have a very surreal look — almost like photographic versions of a Salvador Dali landscape. He photographed stage versions of McBeth sixteen times in four decades. Noted celebrity subjects include Audrey Hepburn, Paul Scofield, Lawrence Olivier, and Vivian Leigh (the later photographed by McBean dozens of times over thirty years). Many of McBean’s photographs are stark illusions and startling depictions of lifelike heads and torsos, pieces of classical architecture, emerging from a sandy wasteland. Later in his career he photographed the Beatles for 1963 and 1970 album covers, and did color fashions for Vogue in the mid-1980s. His annual Christmas card creations, sent to friends since 1936, have become a valuable auction item. In 1968 Harvard University purchased all of his theater negatives — 48,000 images weighing four and a half tons. 
(Author: Ken White - Rochester Institute of Technology) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Angus McBean
1947 (ca)
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Exhibitions on this website

ThumbnailAngus McBean - The Christmas Cards 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
 Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.179 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Angus McBean.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.225, Plate 40 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Angus McBean this is a useful starting point.] 
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