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John Kasmin

8 of 11 portraits of John Kasmin

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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John Kasmin

by Ida Kar
2 1/4 inch square film negative, 1959
Purchased, 1999
Photographs Collection
NPG x126006

Sitterback to top

  • John Kasmin (1934-), Art dealer. Sitter in 11 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Ida Kar (1908-1974), Photographer. Artist associated with 1544 portraits, Sitter in 136 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In 1956 Kasmin became Kar's assistant, often encouraging her to photograph writers that he was eager to meet such as T.S. Eliot. Kar photographed Kasmin at his home, 18 Fouberts Place, London. On the fireplace are a Ben Nicholson relief, African combs and a pre-Columbian pot.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Freestone, Clare (appreciation) Wright, Karen (appreciation), Ida Kar Bohemian Photographer, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 March to 19 June 2011), p. 94 Read entry

    Kasmin was educated at Magdalen College School in Oxford before working at various jobs and writing poetry in New Zealand. On his return to England in 1956 he began to work as assistant to and promoter for Kar, often encouraging her to photograph writers whom he was eager to meet. Kasmin also assisted in the running of Gallery One. He wrote to Musgrave, 'the gallery has been very busy, rarely empty. Students, bores, painters and the odd leaven.' Kasmin opened his own gallery in 1963, with a Kenneth Noland exhibition and David Hockney became one of his first artists. Kasmin's focus was on abstraction and he exhibited British artists such as Anthony Caro and the Americans Frank Stella and Barnett Newman. The large white space on New Bond Street with a rubberised floor, designed by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek, was revolutionary at the time. Kasmin closed this gallery in 1972 but continued to represent his artists and in 1977 opened the Knoedler Kasmin Gallery, where he held an exhibition of Kar's vintage prints in 1982. Kar photographed Kasmin at his home, 18 Fouberts Place, London, after he had moved out of the D'Arblay Street building. On the fireplace are a Ben Nicholson relief (c.1930), African combs and a pre-Columbian pot.

Placesback to top

Events of 1959back to top

Current affairs

Harold Macmillan wins the general election with an increased majority, returning to office as Conservative prime minister. The victory was the result of perceived economic improvement under the Conservative government, and his (misquoted) boast: 'you've never had it so good.' During his premiership he earned the nickname 'Supermac', coined by cartoonist, Victor 'Vicky' Weisz.

Art and science

Claudia Jones organises the first West Indian-style carnival in the country, starting the tradition of the annual Notting Hill carnival. The event was a response to the race riots of 1958, and an attempt to celebrate West Indian culture and help overcome racial prejudice by giving the whole community the opportunity to join in the event.


Fidel Castro becomes leader of Cuba. After defeating the American-backed Batista government, Castro's revolutionary army arrived in Havana on 8th January where Castro proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Within a month, Prime Minister José Miró Cardona had resigned, and Castro took over.
In Tibet, an uprising against Chinese rule is brutally crushed, and the Dalai Lama flees to India, beginning his long exile.

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