16 Facts About Angus McBean


Angus Rowland McBean was a Welsh photographer, set designer and cult figure associated with surrealism.


Angus Rowland McBean was born in Newbridge, Monmouthshire, Wales on 8 June 1904, elder child and only son of Clement Philip James McBean, of Scottish descent, and Irene Sarah, nee Thomas, of Welsh origin.


Angus McBean's father, a former second lieutenant in the South Wales Borderers, was a surveyor in the mines and the family moved frequently around Wales with his job.


At the age of fifteen Angus McBean took part in the amateur dramatics productions at the Lyceum Theatre in Monmouth, where he was mostly involved in the creation of sets, props and costumes.


In 1925, after his father's early death from tuberculosis, contracted in the trenches during the First World War, Angus McBean moved with his mother and younger sister Rowena to a three bedroomed cottage at 21 Lowfield Road, West Acton.


Angus McBean's masks became a talking point in social columns, and were much admired by the leading London West End photographer Hugh Cecil.


Cecil offered him an assistant's post at his New Grafton Street studio where Angus McBean learnt how to retouch large glass negatives and other useful techniques, whilst working on his own photographs in the evenings.

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Vivien Leigh

Angus McBean had a new career and a photographic leading lady: he was to photograph Vivien Leigh on stage and in the studio for almost every performance she gave until her death thirty years later.


Angus McBean resultantly became one of the most significant portrait photographers of the 20th century, and was known as a photographer of celebrities.


Angus McBean was sentenced to four years in prison and was released in the autumn of 1944.


In 1945, not sure whether he would find work again, Angus McBean set up a new studio in a bomb-damaged building in Endell Street, Covent Garden.


Angus McBean was commissioned first by the Stratford Memorial Theatre to photograph a production of Anthony and Cleopatra, and all his former clients quickly returned.


Angus McBean was an influence on the young John Shand Kydd.


In 1984 Angus McBean appeared, credited as "special guest", in the music video for "Red Guitar", the debut solo single by British musician-composer David Sylvian.


In 1990, Angus McBean fell ill whilst on holiday in Morocco, and after returning to England, he died at Ipswich Heath Road Hospital on his eighty-sixth birthday.


Angus McBean did not enjoy this level of fame either in his life or after death, even though he was arguably the better technically and artistically.