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.


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:


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:


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.


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).

11 responses to “Mr Sambourne’s studio

  • Neil Pettigrew

    An excellent article on Sambourne and his models, and you make some interesting points. I can confirm that in one photo (‘models getting ready for another picture’) the two models are Hetty and Lily Pettigrew (my great-great-aunts). In another photo (‘Mrs King putting her feet up’) this is actually Hetty Pettigrew again. Great to see these photos of them! Regards, Neil Pettigrew

    • Dave Walker

      Thanks for your comment, and correction. I will amend the post. There are a few other Sambourne studio pictures that I didn’t use which you might be able to identify. My direct email is in the “About” section of the blog.
      I read your article on the Pettigrew sisters in the Chelsea Society Annual report 2012. Any luck with a publisher for the book?

  • Alison Larson

    Enjoyed this post! As an undergraduate intern at Leighton House, I worked on Sambourne’s photography collection a bit, and his magazine illustration became the basis for my graduate thesis. Can’t wait for the digitized collection!

  • Helena Joyce

    Read the post about Mr Sambourne’s studio with great interest as i have just finished writing a short story about Hetty Pettigrew, one of Mr Sambourne’s models. Wondered if Neil Pettigrew who is her great, great nephew would like to read it? Unfortunately I don’t know where to send it. Can you help me out? Maybe you’d like to read it too, or am I being a bit presumptuous?

    • Dave Walker

      Yes, I’d certainly like to read it.I have Neil’s email address around here somewhere so I could pass the story on to him.

      • Helena Joyce

        Hi Dave,
        Thanks for the interest in my story about Hetty Pettigrew and whilst I’d like to send it to you, I don’t know how!!! Terrible confession, but I’m not in the first flush of youth so not much good with technology. Fortunately Neil Pettigrew has given me his email address so (fingers crossed) I can send the story to him as an attachment.

      • Dave Walker

        My email address is in the About section of the blog.There are lots of pictures of the Pettigrew sisters in the Sambourne collection but I can’t publish them on the blog, despite their historical interest.

  • neil pettigrew

    Hello Helena, I would be fascinated to read a short story about Hetty! You may be interested in getting hold of a copy of the latest issue of THE BRITISH ART JOURNAL, for which I have written a substantial 13-page article on Hetty and her sisters Lily and Rosie. If you want to get in touch directly, my email is: Best wishes, Neil

  • neil pettigrew

    Hello Helena, No sign of your short story yet! Have you tried to get in touch? Neil

  • neil pettigrew

    Hello Dave, It just occurred to me that my last comment, although addressed to Helena, may only go to you, Dave. Are you able to forward it on to her? Neil

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