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14 People in sitter grouping: Mass-Observation

Founded in 1937, by anthropologist Tom Harrisson, writer Charles Madge and filmmaker Humphrey Jennings, the Mass Observation organisation would work with volunteers and full-time observers on a range of social research projects, including East end Anti-Semitism and the West Fulham by-election 1938. Based in a Bolton house they called Worktown and Madge’s home in Blackheath, London, Harrison and Madge favoured different methods when it came to collecting data. Harrison preferred a top-down approach, where behaviour of a group or class of people would be observed, whereas Madge used a top down approach, asking individuals for responses and using surveys to provide qualitative data. After some initial hesitation, the government’s Ministry of Information would work with Mass Observation during WW2 to report on public morale and the effects of the war. Madge would leave the group in 1940, citing the government commissions as one of his reasons, believing that it was a slippery slope from being a majority government funded organisation, to becoming a spying organ of the state, facilitating government manipulation of public opinion. After the war, many of the Mass Observation workers would go on to join the newly established Government Social Survey, and this coupled with lack of funding saw the organisation eventually merge into a market research company. Among sociologists and anthropologists, Mass Observation is still valued for its pioneering work in the field of participant observation.

Sir Thomas ('Tommy') Dalmahoy Barlow

1883-1964
Industrialist and public servant
Sitter in 5 portraits

Sir William Menzies Coldstream

1908-1987
Painter
Sitter in 15 portraits

Sir William Empson

1906-1984
Poet, literary critic and teacher
Sitter in 12 portraits

Richard Sidney Richmond Fitter

1913-2005
Naturalist and author
Sitter in 1 portrait

David Emery Gascoyne

1916-2001
Poet
Sitter in 7 portraits

Sir Victor Gollancz

1893-1967
Publisher
Sitter in 4 portraits

Tom Harnett Harrisson

1911-1976
Traveller, explorer and scholar; co-founder of the Mass-Observation social survey project
Sitter in 15 portraits

Humphrey Jennings

1907-1950
Documentary filmmaker
Sitter in 1 portrait

Charles Madge

1912-1996
Poet and co-founder of Mass Observation
Sitter in 10 portraits

Lady Naomi Margaret Mitchison (née Haldane)

1897-1998
Writer; diarist for Mass-Observation; wife of Gilbert Richard Mitchison; daughter of John Scott Haldane
Sitter in 4 portraits

Bill Naughton

1910-1992
Writer
Sitter in 1 portrait

Ernest Emil Darwin Simon, 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe

1879-1960
Politician and Co-founder of New Statesman
Sitter in 3 portraits

Julian Trevelyan

1910-1988
Painter and etcher
Sitter in 9 portraits | Artist of 3 portraits

Woodrow Lyle Wyatt, Baron Wyatt of Weeford

1918-1997
Politician and journalist
Sitter in 6 portraits