Portraits of Anthony Burgess
- 25th March 2020
- Blog Posts
Here are some highlights from our exhibition Portraits of Anthony Burgess.
Anthony Burgess was one of the most photographed writers of the twentieth century.
Our collection contains more than 9000 images and paintings, a rich document of his life created by leading artists, and his friends and family. The images show his early life in Manchester, his time as a teacher in Malaya and Brunei, his rise to fame as a novelist in the 1960s and 1970s, and his later life in Italy, France and Monaco.
Anthony Burgess pictured with his mother and sister in 1918.
Burgess was born in Harpurhey, north Manchester, in 1917, and grew up in Miles Platting and Moss Side. This image of him as a baby with his mother Elizabeth and his sister Muriel was taken in 1918. Soon after it was taken, his mother and sister were killed in the 1918 influenza epidemic. This is one of only four images that survive from his childhood.
Anthony Burgess as a teacher at Banbury Grammar School, Oxfordshire.
After his studies were interrupted by the war, Burgess became a teacher. This image is from his time at Banbury Grammar School between 1950 and 1954. Disillusioned with life in Oxfordshire, he and his first wife Lynne then left for Malaya, where Burgess taught at the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar. The Burgesses eventually returned to England after Burgess collapsed with a suspected brain tumour in Brunei in 1959. After recovering, he went on to become a full-time writer.
Anthony Burgess out and about in Chiswick, with his wife Liana and their dog.
As Burgess’s reputation as a novelist grew in the 1960s, he began to be photographed for books and magazines. This photograph was taken for a feature in Life magazine in 1968. Burgess is pictured in and around his home in Chiswick with his second wife Liana, whom he married that year, and their dog Haji.
Anthony Burgess at home in Italy with his son, Paolo Andrea.
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 the home life of the Burgesses and their travels around the world between 1968 and 1993. This is a snap of Burgess in playful mood at home with his son Paolo Andrea.
Anthony Burgess writing about himself in Vogue
Burgess was perhaps not particularly interested in his own appearance: colour-blind and possibly cursed by 1970s fashions, he was rather more interested in what people said and wrote than how they looked.
His vanity was limited to avoiding being photographed wearing his spectacles where possible. When he was required to comment on a photo of himself for a 1978 article in Vogue, he was unsparing:
My 1968 passport photograph shows a meaty confident cattle-broker with a biblical nose, sly eyes, and the slack mouth of one who is evidently drunk. The new one (taken, admittedly, at nine on a crapulous autumn morning in the basement studio of a store on Regent Street) is of a victim-haunted murderer-at-large, the lips thin and pursed, cheeks sunken, eyes bagged. […] Move on, reader, and admire the thin, evil-eyed girls who flaunt the latest fashions, drink in the beauty hints that proclaim the value of living. Life is for you. My portrait is of an empty cup, a melon-rind, a crushed yoghurt carton, a stamped-out Schimmelpennick.
We invite everyone to come and see for themselves at our exhibition later in the year.