Mass-Observation and Visual Culture
Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain
Mass-Observation and Visual Culture: Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain critically analyses the role that visual culture played in the early development of Mass-Observation, the innovative British anthropological research group founded in 1937. The group’s production and use of painting, collage, photography, and other media illustrates not only the broad scope of Mass-Observation’s efforts to document everyday life, but also, more specifically, the centrality of visual elements to its efforts at understanding national identity in the 1930s.
Although much interest has previously focused on Mass-Observation’s use of written reports and opinion surveys, as well as diaries that were kept by hundreds of volunteer observers, this book is the first full-length study of the group’s engagement with visual culture. Exploring the paintings of Graham Bell and William Coldstream; the photographs of Humphrey Spender; the paintings, collages, and photographs of Julian Trevelyan; and Humphrey Spender’s photographs and widely recognized ‘Mass-Observation film’, Spare Time, among other sources, Mass-Observation and Visual Culture: Depicting Everyday Lives in Britain positions these works as key sources of information with regard to illuminating the complex character of British identity during the Depression era.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Unprofessional Painting: Mass-Observation and Visual Culture
- Another Place in Time: Humphrey Spender’s Northern Photographs
- Julian Trevelyan: ‘Jekyll and Hyde’
- The Euston Road in Worktown
- May the Twelfth and Spare Time
Conclusion: ‘Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say’: Mass-Observation in Contemporary Contexts
Lucy Curzon holds a PhD in Visual Culture Studies and is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Alabama. She has previously published work on contemporary portrait painting, as well as on the Ashington Group and Humphrey Spender.
Winner of the Historians of British Art Book Prize for a single-authored book with a subject after 1800!