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Beatrix Lehmann

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

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Beatrix Lehmann

by Angus McBean
bromide print, 1937
11 1/2 in. x 9 1/8 in. (292 mm x 231 mm)
Purchased, 2001
Primary Collection
NPG P922

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

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

This portraitback to top

In December 1937 McBean began his a series of 'Surrealised Portraits' for The Sketch magazine with this portrait of Beatrix Lehmann. The portraits were published as a two-page feature each week between the end of 1937 and throughout 1938. This portrait was captioned 'Vinnie Actionised' in a reference to her performance as Lavinia (Vinnie) in Eugene O’Neill’s play Mourning Becomes Electra. Other sitters in the 'Surrealised Portraits' series included the actresses Mary Ellis and Peggy Ashcroft and the ballet dancer Tamara Toumanova.

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. 40 Read entry

    The inspiration and the starting point for McBean’s 'Surrealised Portraits', which were to appear each week from the end of 1937 and throughout 1938, was a two-page feature published in The Sketch of 8 December 1937. The magazine reproduced fourteen bust-length portraits, painted in a mildly surrealistic manner by William Acton, of contemporary society beauties. McBean's portrait of the classical actress Beatrix Lehmann was captioned 'Vinnie Actionised', with an explanatory text alluding to her performance as Lavinia (Vinnie), Electra's daughter in the play Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill at the Westminster Theatre. Lehmann was the sibling of the writers John and Rosamond Lehmann, and daughter of the noted rowing coach and journalist Rudolph Chambers Lehmann. Original negatives from the sittings show McBean experimenting with other classical props including a horse's head from the Elgin marbles.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1937back to top

Current affairs

George VI becomes king. The younger brother of Edward VIII was crowned on the 12th May and the coronation was broadcast to Britain and the Empire on the radio. Edward becomes the Duke of Windsor, although the rank of 'Royal Highness' is not extended to Wallis Simpson.
Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister following Baldwin's retirement.

Art and science

Roland Penrose organises a tour of Picasso's painting Guernica to the UK. The painting, which shows the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, went on display at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in East London.
A new synthetic fabric is invented and named after New York and London: Nylon.


Commercial airship travel is brought to an end with the 'Hindenberg Disaster'. The German airship exploded while landing in New Jersey. The radio broadcaster Herbert Morrison's reaction has become legendary: 'Oh, the humanity!'
Japan invades China, killing about 25,000. Japanese Troops committed numerous atrocities against soldiers and civilians in what became known as the 'Rape of Nanking'.

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