Helen Muspratt (1)

The other small exhibition at Pallant House was a small display of photographs by Helen Muspratt, one half of the studio of Ramsey and Muspratt who ran a photographic studio above a row of shops in Cambridge and who took a rather sultry photograph of my mother in the 1930s which I own, but can’t find, as well as of my grandfather.   They later moved to Post Office Terrace where they bought an existing photographic studio and used Wittgenstein to advise on the decoration.   Her photographs were brilliant, as well as of brilliant people (she was helped in her choice of sitters by the fact that Lettice had married Frank Ramsey and was the lover of Julian Bell).   One of the most amazing portraits was of Oliver Zangwill, who I knew as a whisky drinking Fellow of King’s, but had obviously been startlingly good looking as a young neuropsychologist.

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18 thoughts on “Helen Muspratt (1)

  1. Thank you. Good to hear that there is a Helen Muspratt exhibition. Does it include any of her portraits of artists – Eileen Agar, Paul Nash ? Or her remarkable solarised photographs ?

  2. marinavaizey says:

    Lucky enough in 1962 to have Helen Muspratt take the family photographs – husband, baby daughter, mother in law, me in various permutations of three and four I think – in Oxford, in her small studio. We love them, another time. and my brother wrote a wonderful biography of Julian Bell, still in print. Thrilled to think she is getting her due…..

  3. Delighted to hear that you saw the exhibition of my mother’s photographs at the wonderful Pallant House Gallery. It coincided with publication of my book about her: Face Shape and Angle, Helen Muspratt Photographer published in March by Manchester University Press.
    More details on http://www.helenmuspratt-photographer.com
    Helen Muspratt and Lettice Ramsey worked together in Cambridge in the 30’s and this was when they did so much extraordinary experimental work with solarisation and multiple images. After that Lettice remained in Cambridge and Helen set up the studio in Cornmarket, which she ran until 1977.
    I hope to get further exhibitions in Oxford and Cambridge where they should still be remembered and would welcome any help on this.

    • Yes, I forgot to mention the book which I have now largely read and really enjoyed. The University Library at Cambridge does good exhibitions in its front entrance. For Oxford, I would have thought you could show the photographs she did, but which were in the end never published, for Betjeman’s planned Murray’s Guide to Oxford.

  4. marinavaizey says:

    Yes we went to Cornmarket, up a flight of stairs if I remember correctly; we had relatively small photographs, beautifully mounted; John so liked the Cambridge connection too etc. it was a world ago. so excited to hear about the book. Oddly Peter and I had thought about asking the NPG to do something; surely that would be good?

  5. Peter Stansky says:

    Yes perhaps the Fitzwilliam would do an exhibition or Kings a small one. I think the firm photographed the Fellows of the College and Frank Ramsey who died so young was a famous Fellow. Charles, thanks so much for ordering the Bell book. Lettice Ramsey is a fairly major figure in it.

      • Peter Stansky says:

        Dear Charles, at the moment I don’t place the remark to VW. I presume they met when she went with Julian to Charleston. Billy Abrahams and I saw her several times when we were working on Journey to the Fromtier in the early 60s. She showed us her correspondence with Julian then but for the fuller version her daughter shared with me the letters again as well with, I think, ones I hadn’t seen before. In any case there is more about Lettices private life in the second version. In Journey there is probably the most famous photograph of John Cornford, with Rae Slade, which was taken by Ramsey & Muspratt. Best, Peter

      • Dear Peter, Yes, it’s a great photograph, but I realise there are others of Cornford on his own. So, what was she like ? There are photographs of her and Muspratt in old age and they are totally different. Charles

      • Peter Stansky says:

        Dear Charles, the best known photograph of Cornford on his own is the one taken by Michael Straight at Dartington. I only saw Lettice a few times fifty years ago so it is hard for me to remember much about her other than being very forthright. But I hope you might derive a good sense of her from the material in the Bell book. Best, Peter

      • Jessica Sutcliffe says:

        There are several other pictures of Cornford taken by Lettice Ramsey on Peter Lofts website: http://www.loftyimages.co.uk He acquired Lettice Ramsey’s studio and all the negatives in about 1979 and made a “gallery” of all the better known sitters. Worth a look. best wishes Jessica Sutcliffe

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