The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

First Previous 1 OF 43 NextLast

Elsa Lanchester

1 of 43 portraits matching these criteria:

- subject matching 'Sun, moon and stars'

Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Elsa Lanchester

by Angus McBean
bromide print, 1938
11 1/4 in. x 8 7/8 in. (286 mm x 226 mm)
Purchased, 2001
Primary Collection
NPG P921

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Angus McBean (1904-1990), Photographer. Artist associated with 276 portraits, Sitter in 79 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Following a memorable performance as Anne of Cleves opposite her husband Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), Lanchester moved with him to Hollywood to make her celebrated film appearance in the Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Angus McBean, best known as a theatrical and portrait photographer, arranged Lanchester before an illusionistic Dalíesque backdrop. This is part of a series of Surrealist portraits of actresses he photographed and which appeared in the illustrated magazine The Sketch from 1937. With the use of props and set design to create visual tricks, Lanchester appears to emerge from the floorboards.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Pepper, Terence, Angus McBean Portraits, 2006 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 July to 22 October 2006), p. 52 Read entry

    Born Elizabeth Sullivan in Lewisham, London, Lanchester began her performing career as a child dancer with Isadora Duncan’s Paris company before acting in a children’s theatre in Soho, London, at the age of sixteen. She made her first film appearance in 1927 and two years later married Charles Laughton. Following a memorable performance as Anne of Cleves opposite Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) she went with him to Hollywood in 1934 to make her most iconic film appearance as the shock-haired Bride of Frankenstein (1935). McBean’s portrait embraced popular surrealistic iconography and inadvertently anticipated wartime destruction, as well as serving to highlight the forthcoming publication of her book Charles Laughton and I (1938), which contained many of her own photographs. McBean had previously photographed Laughton and Vivien Leigh together during the making of the film St Martin's Lane.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1938back to top

Current affairs

Britain pursues its policy of appeasement. At the Munich Agreement, Britain, France and Italy agreed to allow Hitler to seize the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. The agreement was seen at the time as a triumph for peace, with Neville Chamberlain returning home brandishing the paper agreement and saying 'peace for our time.' Within six months Germany had occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Art and science

Graham Greene publishes Brighton Rock. The novel follows the descent of Pinky, a teenage gang leader in Brighton's criminal underworld. The book examines the criminal mind and explores the themes of morality and sin - recurrent concerns for the Roman Catholic Author.
Glasgow hosts the Empire Exhibition; an £11 million celebration of the British Empire visited by 13 million people.


In its pursuit of 'Lebensraum' (living space), Germany annexes Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia with little opposition from the League of Nations. At home, the Nazis continued their escalating persecution of the Jews with 'Kristallnach' (the Night of Broken Glass), attacking Jewish homes, shops, businesses and synagogues, and taking Jewish men to concentration camps.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.