by Lucia Moholy
bromide print, 1936
15 3/4 in. x 12 1/4 in. (400 mm x 311 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Baron Blackett (1897-1974), Physicist; government and military advisor; recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics. Sitter in 26 portraits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 225 Read entry
One of the greatest scientists of the century, Blackett's influence extended far beyond the laboratory into military strategy and national politics. In his early career he worked with Lord Rutherford in Cambridge on atomic theory, and photographed the first visible evidence of the disintegration of the nitrogen atom. From 1935 he served on the committee formed to advise on defence which pressed for the development of radar, and was director of naval operational research during the war. His dissentient views on the uses of atomic energy, expressed in The Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy in 1948, the year he won the Nobel Prize for physics, led to his expulsion from government circles, until in 1964 Harold Wilson appointed him scientific adviser to his newly created Ministry of Technology, with the aim of creating for the first time a scientific and technological policy for the country. At his insistence support for the computer industry was made a priority.
Born Lucia Schulz in Prague, Lucia Moholy was married in the 1920s to the Hungarian painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy, and created with him the first experimental photograms. She moved to London in 1934, where she worked as freelance photographer and lecturer, and produced a series of portraits which are remarkable as character-readings. They are generally close-ups, unaffected in style, informal, with a minimal use of props. Blackett was a powerful, dominant personality, and much of his nervous energy and impatience is conveyed by his concentrated stare, directed away from the camera, and the urgency with which he seems to draw on his cigarette. In 1939 Lucia Moholy published with the newly-founded Penguin Books A Hundred Years of Photography, the first history of photography in English. She now lives in Switzerland.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 59
Events of 1936back to top
Current affairsFollowing the death of his father George V, Edward succeeds to the throne as King Edward VIII, but chooses to abdicate in order to marry the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward was the only monarch every to voluntarily relinquish the throne.
Art and scienceThe Spitfire, designed by Reginald Mitchell, has its maiden flight. The RAF and other allied forces used the plane extensively and to great effect during the Second World War.
Television broadcasting begins. Although the BBC had been transmitting television since 1930, regular service did not begin until 1936, when the 'BBC Television Service' (now BBC One) was broadcast from Alexandra Palace.
InternationalThe Spanish Civil War begins. Nationalists, led by General Francisco Franco, and supported by Italian and German fascist governments, rebelled against the Second Spanish Republic. The conflict lasted until 1939, and anticipated many of the features of the Second World War: fighting between Communists and Fascists, the rise of nationalism and the use of terror tactics against civilians.
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