British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age

British Design 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age
Julie Christie, 1962
About Town, May 1961

The V&A’s exhibition, British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age, celebrates the best of British post-war art and design from the 1948 ‘Austerity Games’ to the present day. Over 300 British design objects highlight significant moments in the history of British design and how the country continues to nurture artistic talent and be a world leader in creativity and design.

A number of Terence Donovan vintage prints that were purchased by the V&A for their permanent collection will have their first outing at the museum as part of this group exhibition. One of the images they purchased, and which will form part of the exhibition, is a rare vintage portrait of Julie Christie. Taken in 1962 it comes from a series of photographs of the actress, all show her in a variety of informal poses. Images from this sitting, along with unusual shots of a number of other women, appeared in women throoo the eyes… Terence Donovan’s first collection of photographs, published in 1964 was a very different kind of book. This book is hard to find these days but at the archive we are lucky to have two, well thumbed copies.

The other images are male fashion shots from the very early 1960s. Terence Donovan took fashion photography out of the studio and onto the gritty London streets. He introduced a narrative style and brought a new visual vernacular that would pave the way for future generations of fashion photographers. In 1964, when asked about his images of men’s fashion Donovan commented; “Not so long ago, the only way you photographed a man was on a shooting stick in Regent’s Park, sitting there. So I thought, right, we’ll get on to this, we’ll go to the gasworks”. The images show well-suited men not as lawyers or bankers but as urban gangsters, replete with pistols and cigarettes. These tongue in cheek images predate the James Bond film franchise by a year but seem to instinctively tap into the male psyche of the time.