Tag Archives: Linley Sambourne

Luker’s interiors

As I said in my first post about William Luker Jr, his illustrations to W J Loftie’s Kensington: Historical and Picturesque number over 300. So I haven’t covered all the best ones in two posts. There are still plenty left. In this case we’re following Luker inside various homes in the Kensington area.



Light shines through glass panels in the door showing a hall with ornate paneling and a fireplace. Beside it a chair with a high back, over which is draped a robe of some kind. It’s these little details that always intrigue me. here’s another empty space.


This hall is pleasantly cluttered with a seemingly random collection of art objects. It seems to be a common feature in the rooms of Luker’s friends, like at Lowther Lodge. (An interesting building in itself.)




Also cluttered in parts, but quite spacious too.



Luker had access to some luxurious properties, like this drawing room with plants and paintings.



And this studio, currently unoccupied.



With a large painting taking shape.

Another empty hall, with a decorative floor.



And eventually we see some people. In this case John Everett Millais, posed with a palette in hand, facing his wife Effie.



The Millais house was in Palace Gate, and is now an embassy. It was Effie they used to say, whose pubic hair frightened John Ruskin (although if I mention it I feel obliged to say it was probably not true. The marriage was annulled. Ruskin later went on to found an institution we’re very fond of here at the Time Centre.)

Below, another old friend of the blog.



Edward Linley Sambourne, another friend of Luker’s. at work in his studio in Stafford Terrace.

From empty or sparsely populated rooms to a room at the Kensington Vestry Hall which is filled with people and music.




A musical evening. Some ladies removed their hats for the convenience of other audience members. Others kept them on, but people would have been too polite to mention the matter.

In the previous century, a less informal musical evening in a house in Kensington Square, coloured in for the published version of the illustration.



And in Luker’s “now”, hundreds of people in a room to hear a concert, at the Albert Hall.





But I think he was happiest in a nearly empty room.



With just a cat, perhaps, checking the room for feline friendly refreshments.



Or a couple of dogs in another cluttered room in Notting Hill Square. They look like they’re waiting for Luker to go so they can choose a sofa or chair in which they could relax.

Finally, back at the Millais house.


With a seal. Not a real one of course. It’s not Rossetti’s, after all.

All these rooms could have had a story. I’m sure Miss Miranda Green could have been in many of them. She was very well connected. But she wasn’t here this week. Perhaps next time….



I’ve got a cold so I’m not very lively at the moment, hence the low word count this week. But Mr Luker’s pictures are usually evocative enough on their own.

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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