Category Archives: Edward Linley Sambourne

Mr Sambourne’s studio

Readers of my first Sambourne post will remember this lady:

01 28 Sep 1896

Edward Linley Sambourne, illustrator and cartoonist, took the photo on September 28th 1896, probably at the Camera Club in Charing Cross Road, a studio and meeting place where amateur photographers could share models, equipment and expertise. Here is the same woman, I think, later or earlier on the same day standing on the same spot.

02 28 Sep 1896

And that’s the problem with Sambourne in two images really. He had a passion for photography, a practical use for it in his professional career as an artist, and he liked taking photographs of women in various states of undress. You can’t insist that this is unequivocally an erotic image. She’s just standing there with a slightly challenging expression. But it has been argued that a significant number of the 30-50,000 photographs Sambourne took in his life do have some erotic content.

And then there’s us looking at the picture more than a hundred years later. Costume historians would no doubt find this pair of images highly instructive. Why did they wear so much clothing? Standing at a bus stop this morning I saw women on their way to work fully dressed and yet wearing less than the model in this picture. But still, she’s the one in her underwear. So is the woman below, taken a couple of years earlier in 1894:

03 19 Aug 1894 720

Here Sambourne is probably looking at the way this petticoat or underskirt would support a dress and how it would affect the woman’s overall shape fully clothed. This sort of thing was of genuine interest to Sambourne as were some quite odd looking pictures like the one below.

LS017

This is definitely one of those poses for a cartoon which form a large proportion of Sambourne’s works. Quite what this pose is for is not immediately obvious although I’m sure Sambourne experts could tell us. It’s also interesting to note the makeshift background and props, the half-fallen back cloth and the table or boxes covered with dustsheets. The background was unimportant compared to the pose. This was definitely a reference photograph.

LS 012 1895

This one looks like it was taken in the yard behind Sambourne’s Stafford Terrace house. The model is perched precariously on what looks like a pile of old furniture. The unrolled scroll is some kind of prop, and the model is staring at a wooden pole for some unexplained reason. These odd photographs can sometimes be explained if you have the relevant drawing which was the end result.  They do have an odd kind of charm in isolation though.

Here are two examples of the picture and the cartoon together:

Copy of Marion Sambourne and cartoon

The odd pose taken up by Sambourne’s indulgent wife Marion in the photograph is explained by the cartoon called Leap Year.

Copy of Sambourne pictures

The photo from 1908 shows Sambourne acting as his own model.

Photography and art had been linked since the former came into general usage. Many serious painters were using photographs in addition to working with live models. Classical subjects for paintings were still popular and many photographers like Sambourne attempted to create images in the classical style with sometimes mixed results.

LS 016 1902

This one looks like the model has been draped in whatever suitable material came to hand. I can’t help thinking that the staff she is holding looks like a household appliance – something for opening high windows or snuffing out candles perhaps. The painter still had the advantage of only being limited by his or her ability and imagination. The photographer could produce a perfect image but had to work with the material to hand. This is a much better result:

LS08

We know the names of some of Sambourne’s models but I don’t know this lady posing an an artist.

The two musicians below may be Kate Manning and Louise Price. (Some of you may be able to correct me on that).

LS 014

I’m not sure the instruments look ancient Greek. The artist again, now possibly carrying a curtain rod:

LS09

Just as Sambourne’s street photos reveal a casual attitude to dress I’m struck by the modern looking hair styles in some of these pictures. Whether the models wore their hair like this in the street is another question.

You can see part of a painting behind her which might mean that the picture was taken in the studio of Sambourne’s friend Edwin Austin Abbey in Bedford Gardens. Here you see two models getting ready for another picture.

LS 013

These, I think are the Pettigrew sisters, Lily and Hetty, who posed for several well known painters including Millais and Alma Tadema. (This has now been confirmed by their descendant Neil Pettigrew – see his comment below)

Here is a more ambitious effort:

LS 023

Miss Alice Smith, I believe swirling around the draperies for some effect Sambourne wanted to capture. Tiring work even if it might have been marginally easier working for a photographer  than a painter. But there was still time to relax.

LS 015

Hetty Pettigrew again, putting her feet up for a moment. Models have been putting up with the artistic whims of photographers and painters for a long time now.

Postscript

There was a flurry of interest in Sambourne last week resulting in a sudden increase in page views on the blog so this post is a reward for all the Sambourne fans as I’ve used most of the street images I scanned back in 2006. These images are a few of the thousands in the Sambourne collection. Leighton House are about to embark on a programme of digitisation which make more of the collection available to researchers. The transcribed diaries of Sambourne’s wife will also soon be available online.

“Public artist, private passions: the world of Edward Linley Sambourne”, a catalogue of the 2001-2002 Sambourne exhibition, (curated by Reena Suleman and Alison Smith, catalogue edited by Robin Smith) was very useful for background information on Sambourne. The photo/cartoon combinations are taken from the book. As is this image from 1888 which shows that Sambourne was just as happy to make himself look foolish for a picture.

Copy of Sambourne in swimming costume 1888

The other Linley Sambourne posts are here (1st), here (Kensington), here (Holland), here  (Paris)and here (at the beach).


Return of the Edwardian sartorialist – Sambourne’s Kensington street style

I have good reason to be grateful to Edward Linley Sambourne. My original post about his street photography (Street Style 1906) has been the most popular single item on this blog and has brought in many readers who might not otherwise have heard about the Library Time Machine. What is it about his street photography which is so compelling?

The first point is one I made on that first post. We are used to thinking of the Edwardian period as the last great period of formal dress for women and men, the last gasp of 19th century fashion and the ancien regime of costume before the revolution of the Great War and the 1920s. Sambourne’s pictures show another side to the early years of the 20th century, a casual attitude to dress demonstrated by the mostly young women in them. The roots of the dress revolution are apparent from the 1890s onwards in candid photographs and picture postcards. Sambourne’s pictures are one instance of this movement.

The other point is another one I have made on previous occasions. We shouldn’t think of these photographs as curious items from past times. These pictures are of the present. When Linley Sambourne roamed the streets of Kensington with his hidden camera between 1905 and 1908 he was catching images of the now.

Have I spent too long on opening remarks? Let’s look at some pictures.

LSL39 Notting Hill 20 Jul 1906

20th July 1906 in Notting Hill Gate – even in summer gloves are worn and one of these two women carries a muff. They’re in a hurry, striding along, oblivious to the photographer.

Back in May of the same year in nearby Kensington Church Street:

LSL43 Church St 2 May 1906

This woman is slightly more formally dressed than the first two. Perhaps she is on her way to work. Sambourne liked to record women at work as below:

LSL45 Cheniston Gdns 29 Jul 1906

This picture taken in Cheniston Gardens shows a young maid engaged in the perennial and tedious task of cleaning the steps. You might think this is another example of Sambourne’s secretive gaze, spying on her working life but to me it has the look of a posed picture. Sambourne had many contacts in the Kensington area across the social classes – people he used as models for his studio photography and the young maid may have been one of them. I think it’s more obvious in this image:

LSL46 Cheniston Gdns 26 Jun  1906

A different set of steps, and (I think) a different woman but she looks to me as though she is responding to a request from Sambourne to hold that pose for a moment.

There is probably a great deal to be said about the interest shown in maids by gentlemen of Sambourne’s age and class but in the absence of firm evidence we can probably acquit him of improper thoughts. As has also been discussed on the blog and in comments, the concept of privacy with regard to photographs taken in the street was underdeveloped in Sambourne’s time. It’s probably true that as an upper middle class man he thought that his right to pursue his art outweighed any violation of his subjects’ privacy. (Some photographers still believe that today.)

To complete a trio of servants here is a maid taking a break, no doubt well deserved:

LSL47 Cromwell Road 26 Jun 1906

The next subject is someone much closer to Sambourne’s own class, a distinctly middle class married woman.

LSL60 Cromwell Road 15 May 1907

In May 1907 she is escorting her two sons along a tree-lined Cromwell Road with just a few horse drawn vehicles in the background. Cromwell Road looks more like a prosperous wide street of upmarket houses as it was originally intended than the major transport artery of today.

LSL19 Kensington 26 Jun 1906

This is one of those pictures where the woman is looking right at the photographer as though she knows what he is doing.

LSL20 Kensington 26 Jun 1906

I think this may be a picture of the same woman from behind. They were both taken on the same day in the same place so that may be a reasonable assumption.

Perhaps you recognize this woman:

LSL04a  21 Jul 1905 720

I think it’s the same woman who featured in the first Sambourne post photographed in Earls Court Road in 1905. (I’ve looked back and forth comparing details of dress and features. I know that some of my readers are very eagle eyed so I won’t commit myself absolutely.) It’s a slightly less flattering image but that is a feature of candid photography. Everyone has seen poor pictures of people who normally look good in photographs. I would say she had been caught by the flash but I’m not sure if Sambourne’s camera had one. Actually the detail I like is the dog sniffing something out in the background so I hope she would forgive me for showing her not quite at her best.

This picture is another example of the big hat, still a common fashion item at the time:

LSL48 Church St 2 Aug 1906

This view is of Kensington Church Street, with some horse drawn buses in the background.

Another family group, from the front and the side:

LSL62 St Albans Road May 1907

LSL61 St Albans Road 10 May 1907

This was in St Albans Road, well off the main streets of Kensington and well out of Sambourne’s main patch.

Another of his pictures from the rear:

LSL21 Kensington 27 Jun 1906

Finally, I’ve been saving one of Sambourne’s best pictures till last. This picture is simply captioned Kensington. It looks a little like one of the streets running off Notting Hill Gate but really it could be any number of streets.

LSL24 Kensington 3 Jul 1906

Sambourne captures a young woman of the early twentieth century walking confidently forward looking straight into the eye of the camera. Forget the photographer. She is looking out at us.

Postscript

Just as this time last year I’m about to start a month of posts related to this year’s CityRead campaign. The book is A week in December by Sebastian Faulks. The posts will all be transport related and the first will be A tale of two tube stations.

One of the many bloggers who wrote about Sambourne after my first post coined the phrase Edwardian Sartorialist to describe him. I can’t remember which one, but my thanks to her/him.

The Sambourne pictures belong to Leighton House Museum. If you would like to reproduce any of them in a book or magazine ask my colleagues there.

The other Linley Sambourne posts are here (Holland), here  (Paris)and here (at the beach).

The text is written by me so if you run a website based in Spain which likes to reprint vintage photographs why not write your own words?


An Englishman abroad: Sambourne in Holland

This week we’re travelling with Edward Linley Sambourne again. Sambourne was an active man even in his later years. He thought nothing of taking a train to Scotland on a Sunday for a couple of days shooting returning for lunch with his Punch colleagues on Wednesday. So his tour through Holland in April 1906 is quite typical. He was with his wife Marion and maybe his daughter but as always he took photographs of women in the street. In the cities The Hague and Amsterdam he saw women dressed in the usual middle class day wear as seen in his pictures of London and Paris.

Here in The Hague a lone woman waits outside a grand building. Is that a bag in her hand or a large muff?

On a quieter street a group stop to talk, in a poorly composed picture (but understandable if Sambourne was using his right angle camera)

One of the districts of The Hague is Scheveningen, a seaside area where Sambourne found young women dressed in traditional working class costume.

They would have sparked off Sambourne’s desire to catalogue different kinds of costume. The Sambourne archive at Leighton House is full of pictures of military and civil uniforms and all kinds of working dress. He also catches the seaside architecture in the background. I think the domed building is the Kurhaus, a hotel and restaurant opened in 1886.

One of this trio is giving him a suspicious look. But the pair below seem happy to pose for a picture with part of the pier behind them.

Sambourne and his party didn’t linger long in one place. They moved south on to Delft, home of the celebrated pottery and the artist Vermeer and just as picturesque in 1906 as it is today.

An excellent view of a woman crossing over one of the canals and below, more tall windows, traditional costume and curious glances.

The next stop was Haarlem. Although the picture below is also badly composed, Sambourne has inadvertently captured a tram line and a group of women carefully crossing it, along with his main subjects the two women in the foreground.

And in this picture, his interest is probably in the uniform of the nursery maid, but we can also see some characteristic Dutch architecture.

The next two pictures were taken in Amsterdam. Although the picture has faded with age it is still a good street scene especially the curious man in the background not looking where he’s going.

Another picture taken the same day which catches activity in the background.

There’s a clear contrast with some of the pictures taken in London and Paris – it’s obviously not a warm April.

From Amsterdam they went south to Utrecht where he met these three, who stopped long enough for a picture.

Can I throw in an entirely gratuitous reference to Dr Strabismus (whom God Preserve)?

Utrecht may have been an excursion as the same day they make their way back towards Amsterdam.

This is a river or canal side view taken in Muiden, a suburb or district of Amsterdam.

This woman was photographed having difficulty in the wind another place near Amsterdam, Marken then a peninsula in the Zuiderzee, an inland sea which was turned into the freshwater lake called the Ijsselmeer in the 1930s.

The party turned south again and a few days later were in the city of Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland. Here he found another traditional costume.

He found further examples in the seaside resort of Domburg.

This group look fairly serious but the final picture was taken in Westkapelle, a small city surrounded on three sides by water. A group of teenagers pay no attention to Sambourne but what three of them are looking at and the other one is ignoring we’ll never know.

Thanks to Sambourne expert Shirley Nicholson for some insights into his character.

Postscript

Last week’s excursion into an alternate reality was illustrated with some pictures of the world we know. One reader expressed an interest so here is a list as they appeared in the post:

Weymouth Street 1993

Hampton Court, Great Fountain Garden 1984

The Garrick Club 1962

Chiswick Park 1962

Chiswick House 1984

Crystal Palace Park 1984

Laeken Royal Glasshouses, Belgium

Interior – North Audley Street 1962

Woman in black: private collection

Dance company in Lausanne 1916: library collection

Hampton Court 1962


Beach style 1906 : Linley Sambourne at the seaside

There was a heat wave in 1906 throughout the whole of the British Isles, quite late in the year at the end of August and the early days of September. Edward Linley Sambourne went to the coast as thousands of others did, and with him as usual went his camera.

In temperatures of 90 degrees the wind blowing off the sea must have been refreshing even though it also presented a challenge to these three women who are literally hanging on to their hats. Here are some others with the same difficulty:

Despite the heat holiday makers were wearing their normal clothes with few concessions to the weather.

Even on the beach, where Sambourne is still catching women unawares:

Has he woken this woman from her nap while her friend sleeps on? And caught the two below in another unguarded moment

I think he must be working with the hidden camera again, especially in this picture.

I’m quite certain that she wouldn’t have been pleased to be pictured emerging from the water like this in her modern bathing costume.

These pictures were taken at Brighton and Folkestone during the heat wave. Earlier in the year in July Sambourne had been in Weymouth where he captures the busy atmosphere of the crowded beach.

He may have crossed the Channel to Weymouth from Ostende where he had been a few days earlier. Here’s a picture taken on the boat.

Another woman having difficulty with a sea breeze. The same day Sambourne had been on the beach at Ostende.

A young woman goes barefoot to walk up the paved slope from the beach.

Another group of women go bathing making use of that curious Victorian invention the bathing machine:

And at the end of the afternoon when the crowds have thinned out, a more stylish young woman goes for a stroll. That was always my favourite time of day on the beach.

Earlier in the year Sambourne made another channel crossing, but this time his main photographic subject was this woman and her husband.

In the original version of this post I thought that they must be Sambourne’s daughter Maud and her husband Lennie. But after looking at some other photos of Maud and consulting Sambourne’s diary a Sambourne expert has shown that he was travelling alone on this trip. So Sambourne must have struck up an acquaintance with the couple. He was certainly persistent in his desire to catch the woman on camera, following her around the ship as she was buffeted by the wind.

Finally she takes shelter, but Sambourne is still snapping away.

She is probably wishing her new friend would just stop taking pictures for a while. But photography is an obsession, luckily for us.

As I’ve had to revise this post now we know who the couple on the boat are not I have an opportunity to thank the staff at Leighton House and Linley Sambourne House for putting up with me writing about their man. Both places are worth a visit if you’re in Kensington and if you want to read more about Sambourne Shirley Nicholson’s book A Victorian Household based on the diaries of Sambourne’s wife Marion is still available from Amazon and other online retailers.


Paris street style 1906: Linley Sambourne goes abroad

There was quite a bit of interest in my first post about Edward Linley Sambourne’s street photography so now that Victorian month is over we can go back to the early years of the 20th century and follow Sambourne to Paris. He was 62 in 1906. He might have been slowing down a little. As it happens he only had four years to live. But he was still full of energy, and as we saw in the previous post still an enthusiastic photographer. He took a few trips abroad that year including the one in June to Paris, then as now the centre of European fashion.

A prosperous couple alight from a carriage. Below, two fashionable women cross the same boulevard, skirts lifted to avoid the dusty surface of the street, also seemingly unaware of Sambourne’s camera.

Sambourne found another good spot at this nearby set of steps. Two women walking up:

He might have been looking for that view of ankles that was supposed to be an obsession for our (male) Edwardian forebears. Here are two on the way down, their ankles well concealed:

As you might have expected the ladies of Paris are better dressed than their counterparts in London and a little more formal in their style.

This woman, younger than the others strides confidently up the steps. She has the same casual attitude and natural ease we saw in London. Although we know it shouldn’t be surprising that women wearing Edwardian fashions are walking around as naturally as Parisian women today walk around in modern clothes nevertheless it is. By the standards of 1906 we wear very little clothing and we see ourselves as casual and relaxed. But the women Sambourne took photographs of were just as modern and enlightened.

The day before, June 3rd 1906 on the Champs Elysees:

Three women walking briskly along. Mother, sister and daughter? Is the ground a little wet underfoot, hence the umbrellas? Just as today people came out onto the Champs Elysees to be seen, and just as modern women and men will stop to pose for a photo by a style blogger so Sambourne had some willing subjects.

This is someone he knew, Madame Helen DuBois in the Tuilleries Gardens still a favourite spot for fashion photographers. Madame (or was it Madamoiselle?) DuBois then demonstrates as if we’d asked her how little she felt constrained by her outfit.

This day, the 4th June 1906 was a Monday so these were the leisured classes of Paris out for an afternoon stroll. Some formally dressed families:

Even the children are in formal dress, learning to parade themselves elegantly through the Gardens:

One young man has managed something more casual:

Look at the two extravagantly dressed women on the left behind the family. I wish I could have slipped Sambourne a few rolls of colour film.

No colour is needed for the next two:

Mother and daughter, or mother-in-law and daughter both in mourning for another family member?

It looks like a warm day. The woman below is using her parasol.

Her companion looks a bit bored as though he could do with being out of the sun, maybe even doing something else on a Monday afternoon. Sambourne of course was following his art, documenting the summer days more than a hundred years ago or just taking snaps of interesting features:

He went on holidayseveral times in his final decade so we may see more of him yet.


Street style 1906: Edward Linley Sambourne’s fashion blog

Stockholm, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, Istanbul, London. You’ll find street style blogs for almost every major city. Amateur and professional photographers hang around outside fashion shows or just prowl the fashionable shopping streets looking for (mostly) women wearing interesting outfits, taking picture of them and posting them on their blogs. The subjects of these pictures are flattered by the attention, or at least the ones we get to see are. This is a genuinely new phenomenon, a product of the internet, a distinctly 21st century thing. Photographers have taken pictures in the street since it was technically possible but no-one ever did a style blog in the early years of the twentieth century.

But Edward Linley Sambourne came close.

A picture taken in Cromwell Road in July 1906.

Linley Sambourne was by 1906 the chief cartoonist of Punch. He’d had a four decade long career as a cartoonist and illustrator. He was also an enthusiastic amateur photographer. He had taken up photography as an aid to his art. He was a skilled draughtsman, obsessed with getting details correct but he preferred to work with a model. Photography gave him the ability to take pictures of family, friends and professional models which he could use as the basis for his cartoons. He took thousands of pictures in his lifetime most of them for reference purposes including dozens of images of military uniforms, national dress, models in pseudo-classical costumes and fancy dress of all kinds. His wife Marion complained in her diary that photography had become as much an obsession as a hobby.

Much of his work was in his home studio:

These blue-tinged photographs are cyanotypes, a  kind of print suitable for the cost-conscious amateur. The second image is of Sambourne’s daughter Maud striking a pose he subsequently used in a cartoon.

In the last decade of his life he also worked outdoors, on holiday and in the streets of Kensington.

What Sambourne captures in his street photography, and why his pictures are of interest to historians of fashion, is a certain casual look all the young women in them have, which is quite different from the formal image of Edwardian fashion you see in many textbooks and costume dramas.

A cyclist struggles with an enormous hat.

A woman Sambourne snobbishly describes as a “shop girl” strolls down Kensington Church Street engrossed in a book.

Without her hat this woman could walk down the Earls Court Road at almost any time in the twentieth century.

The one difference between Sambourne’s street photography and the pictures taken by modern style bloggers is that for the most part his subjects had no idea they were being photographed. Sambourne used a concealed camera. What do we think of this? Does it change your view of the pictures? In Sambourne’s defence it could be said that attitudes to photography were different in the early years of the twentieth century and that notions of the right to privacy hadn’t been completely worked out. But most modern photographers, amateur or professional wouldn’t work like this now.

From our point of view the images are part of history. The subjects are all dead now along with the man who took them. The photographs are interesting because they show us how women looked in a certain part of London in the early 1900s, so I show you some of them here because they are part of the history of Kensington.

I think a few of Sambourne’s subjects had worked out what he was doing. This woman looks curious.

So like her make your own mind up about Edward Linley Sambourne as another woman reads while walking.

And walks away from the camera’s eye.


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