Liana Burgess was a keen and prolific amateur photographer. Using an Asahi Pentax SP1000 from the mid-1960s, her images make up a large part of the photographic collection at the Burgess Foundation and document both the home life of the Burgesses and their travels around the world between 1968 and 1993.
Our exhibition ‘Portraits of Anthony Burgess’, open to the public at the Engine House later in the year, draws on the many thousands of photographs that she took. Her pictures are intimate, casual and lively. Burgess is performing, delivering a lecture, being interviewed or reading from his work; and he is also shown in unguarded moments, relaxed with his family – and occasionally even smiling.
Together, Liana Burgess’s photographs are an important part of our unusually complete record of a working writer’s life. Burgess is pictured here working at home in Malta in 1970; and boarding a plane with his son Paolo Andrea.
Anthony Burgess writing on the visual arts is limited to occasional articles and exhibition catalogue pieces. Yet some of his work does concern itself with photography, especially in his 1976 novel Beard’s Roman Women: Liana Burgess is fictionalised as the character ‘Paola Lucrezia Belli’, whose photographs are critical to the plot and who is credited with the images that illustrate the text (in fact created by the American photographer David Robinson).
In 1980 Burgess wrote an introduction to Private Pictures, a book of paparazzi photographs, in which he says: ‘Photography as art is, like painting, concerned with suggesting movement; when it tries to capture a human personality it wishes to give the impression of that personality existing in time, not in the timelessness of the split second.’
Liana Burgess’s images of her husband give us a new impression of Burgess’s personality, captured nowhere else. Our exhibition presents nearly one hundred of her photographs, alongside many more from our collections. Liana Burgess’s self-portrait below was taken on the opening night of Burgess’s Cyrano musical on Broadway, in 1973.