|Dates: ||1856, 26 July - 1950, 2 November|
|Born: ||Ireland, Dublin|
|Died: ||England, Hertfordshire|
Irish playright, author, socialist and photographer.
An extensive collection of over 16,000 photographs is held at the London School of Economics and Political Science, The British Library of Political and Economic Science - GB 097 Shaw Photographs.
Approved biography for George Bernard Shaw
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Born in Dublin, on July 26, 1856, George Bernard Shaw, the critic, orator, playwright, and Socialist, became an avid photographer and sometimes pictorialist.
Shaw moved to London with his mother in 1876, began to write, and had his first novel published in 1879. He became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, giving speeches and writing about the exploitation of the working class. Between 1888 and 1894, he wrote music criticism for three newspapers, and in 1895 he began a three-year stint as the drama critic for Saturday Review. He wrote over sixty plays, the first of which was produced in 1892.
In 1898, Shaw began photographing with a Kodak box camera, while recuperating from an illness. He became friends with the pictorialists Frederick H. Evans and Alvin Langdon Coburn, and the three frequently photographed each other. In July 1906, Alfred Stieglitz’s featured a soft-focus portrait by Shaw of Coburn in the exquisite quarterly Camera Work. It shows Coburn pensively sitting outdoors, framed by garden vegetation.
Only a few exhibitions are known to have included Shaw’s photographs. They are the London salons of 1907 and 1908 and An Exhibition of Pictorial Photographs Arranged by the Photo-Club of Canada at the Art Association of Montreal in 1907. In 1909, the exhibition catalog for the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography, organized by Alfred Stieglitz for New York’s National Arts Club, listed three by Shaw, but Camera Work reported that they were not hung.
Shaw championed the new art of photography by contributing a variety of articles to photography periodicals in England and the United States—exhibition reviews, appreciations of individuals, and aesthetic discourses. These appeared in Amateur Photographer in 1900-02, Camera Work from 1903 to 1912, and Photography in 1909.
Among Shaw’s most well-known plays are Man and Superman (1903) and The Doctor’s Dilemma (1906). In 1925, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature and in 1938 an Academy Award for adapting his play Pygmalion for filmmaking.
Shaw photographed for the rest of his life, albeit in a straightforward manner. In 1948, F. E. Loewenstein’s book Bernard Shaw through the Camera was issued, with portraits of the playwright by many photographers, including himself. In 1950, he published his own title, Bernard Shaw’s Rhyming Picture Guide to Ayot Saint Lawrence, the place he had been living for many years. That same year, George Bernard Shaw died, in Hertfordshire, England, at age ninety-four, on November 2, 1950.
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 1 June 2013.
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