The Limelight Pictures: Ian Beck


The Limelight Pictures is an exhibition by Ian Beck, runnning from 27 February to end of May 2013 at South Kensington and Chelsea Mental Health Centre.

The exhibition grew out of a commission from the Nightingale Project for Ian Beck to produce a series of drawings of Charlie Chaplin for Ellington Ward, our older adults’ mental health ward at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow (see Work we’ve done page). For this project Ian produced several images of Chaplin, and added one of Buster Keaton and another of music hall star, Little Tich.

Following the success of this series, we asked Ian to continue to explore this vein, and he has produced pictures of Max Miller, Louise Brooks, Anna May Wong, Josephine Baker, Laurel and Hardy, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich -as well as some further images of Charlie Chaplin. Collectively we are caling these The Limelight Pictures: the title refers to the Chaplin film but also to the particular lighting used in old music halls and theatres.

We are delighted to be presenting the series for exhibition, since Ian has been so fully preoccupied with writing in recent years that it’s a special occasion to see a new set of pictures by him

Ian has written about The Limelight Pictures on his website. He writes that he has used for this series a muted palette of colours, with the intention of suggesting that these portraits of figures from silent screen and music hall had lain in the drawer of some imaginary collector for years and had then come to light, a little faded by time. As his work on the drawings went on, Ian realised who this previously nameless collector might be: his friend the music critic and broadcaster Patrick O’Connnor, who had also been a friend and supporter of the Nightingale Project. Patrick had indeed been a great collector af theatrical ephemera, postcards, posters and so on, and after his untimely death in 2010 the collection was dispersed. As Ian completed this set of drawings he began to imagine that these were a sheaf of pictures discovered left over in a previously unnoticed drawer of Patrick.s The exhibition is therefore dedicated to the memory of Patrick O’Connor.