This month, the Yale Center for British Art, in the United States, has expanded its collection of photographs through a generous gift of 125 works from the London-based collectors Claire and James Hyman. The gift includes prints by famed British photographers Bill Brandt (1904–1983), Tony Ray-Jones (1941–1972), and Martin Parr (b. 1952), and it introduces works by Bert Hardy (1913–1995), Roger Mayne (1929–2014), Fay Godwin (1931–2005), John Blakemore (b. 1936), Colin Jones (b. 1936), Anna Fox (b. 1961), and many others who are not yet represented in the Center’s steadily growing collection.
“Claire and I hope that by making this donation at such a seminal moment it will help provide a platform for the Center’s ambitions to develop its engagement with British photography,” said Dr. James Hyman. “This gift marks the continuation of a special relationship with Yale University that began in 2001, when the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies for British Art, London, in association with Yale University Press, published my doctorate The Battle for Realism: Figurative Art in Britain during the Cold War (1945–60).”
Highlights from the Hymans’ gift to the Yale Center for British Art include British landscapes, from the layered intimacy of a riverbank in Blakemore’s Lathkill Dale, Derbyshire (1979) to the bleak, ruptured majesty of Godwin’s Meall Mor, Glencoe (1989). Several photographers whose work is included in the gift, such as Hardy, Brandt, Jones, and Jane Bown (1925–2014) worked for illustrated magazines, such as the mid-century Picture Post or the Observer, the long-lived illustrated Sunday magazine, which fostered both social documentary and graphic innovation in British photography. Prints from two Picture Post photo-essays by Hardy trace the everyday realities of wartime and postwar Britain: A Trawler in War-time, March 1942, captures fishermen trawling in the North Sea under brutal conditions, while Life in the Elephant depicts citizens of south London during the winter of 1948. Jones recorded life in postwar industrial landscapes, foregrounding British steel-working and coal-mining towns in the 1970s. Fox’s photographs document the unsettling customs and rituals of British life in a small, picturesque village in Hampshire.