For many years, Francis Goodman’s archive of negatives was held in store awaiting rediscovery and staff research time. We knew the collection contained portraits of a young Lucian Freud and other key twentieth-century figures including Henry Moore and Ian Fleming, but much of the archive was unlabelled and mixed with Goodman’s travel work. However, the possibility of staging a mini retrospective to mark the centenary of Goodman’s birth allowed me to find out more about the life and work of this photographer whose name has since been largely forgotten.
Goodman’s work first came to the National Portrait Gallery’s notice when it bought from him a small album in 1988. Mostly consisting of contact prints from the 1940s, it hinted at some of the contents of his negative archive, which he subsequently bequeathed in 1989. Sitters in the album included film star Anna May Wong, crime writer Margery Allingham at home, and Phyllis Calvert and Michael Rennie in Capri during the filming of the Golden Madonna (1949). There was also a letter from the editor of the Tatler and Bystander in 1947 thanking Goodman for his work that year. However, it was only through recent research into vintage copies of the magazine that we could see how these portraits were used.
Alongside a commercial context, personal stories also unfold when researching a photographer’s archive. In Photography magazine in 1954, Goodman commented: ‘People and places have always interested me most. I am far more interested in the people I photograph than in the pictures I take of them’. And this connection with people is clear. Some names appear repeatedly among his negative packets, suggesting long-lasting associations. Recent contact with Goodman’s descendants has brought fascinating new insights and the surviving sitters I have been fortunate to contact often remember him warmly as ‘Franzie’ and a ‘great friend’.
Fellow photographer Robin Cracknell recalled becoming ’good friends immediately’ on their first meeting and arranging to take Goodman’s portrait in his Knightsbridge flat soon after. He recently kindly donated this photograph to us which, taken shortly before Goodman died, is a counterpoint to the several earlier self-portraits already in our collection.
Cataloguing of the archive continues and brings more discoveries, including the recently found negatives for Goodman’s sittings with Francis Bacon and David Hockney, located in unlabelled packets. I would love to hear from others with memories of ‘Franzie’ or of being photographed by him. The display of Goodman’s work can currently be seen in the Room 31 showcases. More of Goodman’s work can be explored on our website here.
Top left: Margery Allingham by Francis Goodman, published 23 February 1949 in The Tatler and Bystander, NPGx195047 © All Rights Reserved
Top right: Phyllis Calvert during the filming of 'The Golden Madonna' by Francis Goodman, published 1 December 1948 in The Tatler and Bystander, Private Collection © All Rights Reserved
Bottom left: Self-portrait by Francis Goodman, June 1961, NPG x131107 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Bottom right: Francis Goodman by Robin Cracknell, spring 1989, NPGx137367 © Robin Cracknell
As part of the display Francis Goodman: Back in Focus