Assistants at Adrian Flowers Studio


Gala Pinion in 1973. Photograph: Adrian Flowers

Gala Pinion

One of the most vivacious and lively assistants who worked at the Adrian Flowers studio in the early 1970s was Gala Pinion. Although Gala—her name pronounced ‘Gayla’—started work at the studio around 1971, very few people knew that she had recently been engaged to the musician Syd Barrett, one of the founders of Pink Floyd. Gala and Syd were due to be married, but the engagement was called off, as Syd became prone to increasingly serious bouts of schizophrenia, an illness that had seen him leave Pink Floyd, to pursue a solo career as musician and artist.

Gala had met Syd Barrett through her friend Lindsay Corner, who also attended Ely School in Cambridgeshire, where Gala did her O levels in 1966. Shortly afterwards, in 1967, Syd and Corner, (also spelled Korner), had a romantic relationship, but they split up, and he and Gala, who was working at the Chelsea Drug Store, got together. She was attracted by his ‘mad attractiveness’ recalling that “he had the most extraordinary eyes and when he looked at you, you felt hopelessly caught”. In December 1968, Syd and a friend, the artist Duggie Fields, moved a flat in Weatherby Mansions in Earls Court. Not long afterwards, Gala joined them, renting the third room. On the cover of Barrett’s solo album A Madcap Laughs, a photograph shows Syd in the flat, with the bare floorboards painted with alternating bands of orange and turquoise blue. Syd’s Love Song, released on an EP, was dedicated to her. “I knew a girl and I like her still/She said she knew she would trust me.” On Syd’s second solo LP, Barrett, produced in 1970 by Dave Gilmour,the song “Wined and Dined” refers to a summer party in Cambridgeshire: “Wined and dined, oh it seemed just like a dream!/Girl was so kind/Kind of love I’d never seen” However, there is sadness in the final lines of the song, “Only last summer, it’s not so long ago/Just last summer/now musk winds blow”

After leaving Pink Floyd, Syd had taken up painting again, but his struggles with schizophrenia were not helped by excessive use of cannabis and LSD. Eventually, unable to cope with his sometimes violent behaviour, Gala moved out of the flat. Her room was taken over by a group of younger people, whose adulation of Barrett and pandering to his habits did not help his mental condition. He eventually left the flat, to return to his family home in Cambridge, where his widowed mother did her best to care for him. He moved back to Cambridge also to be close to Gala, who was working at the Joshua Taylor department store in the city. According to his friend Duggie, Syd even dreamed of becoming a doctor, getting married, and living a suburban life with Gala. Syd and Gala announced their engagement on 1st October 1970, finding a ring at the Antiquarius market on King’s Road. However, a celebration dinner with family members was not a success, and not long afterwards, with Syd becoming increasingly jealous and paranoid, the engagement was called off.

Front of postcard ‘Gala’s Knees’ for Post Card Show at Angela Flowers Gallery 1971, copyright Angela Flowers.
Photograph: Adrian Flowers

Six years later Gala bumped into Syd in a supermarket on Fulham Road, but his erratic behaviour led her to leave abruptly, never to see him again. After Gala, Syd had no other girlfriends. He lived quietly in Cambridge, and died of diabetes in 2006.

Gala went on to pursue her modelling career and to work at the Adrian Flowers studio. In 1971 she featured in the Michael Joseph photography shoot of a zany party scene for a billboard campaign for Fernet-Branca—the same image was used over two decades later for the LP “Funk Spectrum”. She also dated Gene Krell, co-founder of the “Granny Takes a Trip”, a boutique popularised by Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones. While she was at the Flowers Studio,  photographer Steve Garforth recalls a work trip to the South of France, where Adrian was to photograph a car for an advertising campaign. Travelling in several vehicles, the team set off from London early one morning, taking the ferry to France and heading for Paris. However, their plan, to camp in the Bois de Boulogne, was upset by torrential rain and abandoning the tents they checked into a nearby hotel. Decorated in Louis XV style, the bedrooms provided an impromptu studio for the team to lark about, photographing each other.

Gala was popular in the AF studio even featuring on a witty postcard for the ‘Post Card Show’ at Angela Flowers Gallery, Lisle Street, in January 1971. Entitled “Gala’s Knees” the postcard was a homage to the 1970 Eric Rohmer film Claire’s Knee.* Ever restless, Gala moved on from the Adrian Flowers studio around 1974, going on to pursue her career in New York. A series of lively postcards she wrote to Adrian in the 1970s, from locations such as the Greek islands, Antigua, and New York, give a good idea of her fondness for travel and fun-loving personality.

‘Gala’s Knees’ for the Post Card Show 1971, copyright Angela Flowers Gallery.
Photograph: Adrian Flowers

cf: further reference to this shot can be found on a previous post on this blog –
‘Adrian Flowers: an appreciation’ by Matthew Flowers

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All photographs subject to copyright

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Artists Portraits

Anthony Hill (Achill Redo)

Constructionist artist
April 1930 – October 2020

Anthony Hill, 1956.
Photograph: Adrian Flowers

Adrian Flowers: job no. 2025  June 1956  Anthony Hill (1930-2020), artist 

Famed for its spielers, houses of ill-repute and establishments such as the Coach and Horses and l’Escargot, Greek Street is still today the centre of London’s bohemian quarter. Extending from Soho Square to Shaftesbury Avenue, over the centuries the street had been home to many artists, including Canaletto, Peter Turnerelli, Thomas Lawrence, Richard Westall and William Etty. In 1956, the artist Anthony Hill had a studio on Greek Street, where he was completing a series of abstract ‘concrete’ paintings and wall-mounted reliefs, in preparation for the forthcoming This is Tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. (The term ‘concrete’ describing abstract works that refer to themselves rather than to external reality). In June of that year Adrian Flowers visited Hill’s studio, to photograph the artist and his work. The shots taken that day show that Hill was moving away from conventional oil paintings, preferring instead to make three-dimensional relief paintings/sculptures, using modern materials such as Perspex and aluminium. One of the works that appears in a Flowers’ photograph, Painting 55-56 (Tate collection) was among the last oil paintings made by the artist. Hill described this work as a study in texture and reductionism, with horizontal lines suggesting the canvas was bound by bands. However the photographs taken in 1956 by Flowers inadvertently—or perhaps deliberately—provide a gentle critique of the concept of ‘concrete’ paintings, in that one shot on the contact sheet shows two square windows of the Greek Street studio, with simple astragals, while the next is of Hill’s geometric abstract paintings with their slender cross-bars motifs. Not only did Flowers photograph the paintings, he also took a series of shots of Hill and his collaborator, sculptor John Ernest, standing over a set of free-standing modular cube-like structures. Hill and Ernest were both keen mathematicians, and worked together on ‘crossing number’ in graph theory, an area of research that directly informed Hill’s art.

Anthony Hill’s studio, photograph by Adrian Flowers
From contact sheet:
Concrete paintings by Anthony Hill in his studio, 1956.
Photograph: Adrian Flowers

Born in 1930 in London, from an early age Hill was fascinated, and indeed obsessed, by mathematics. At the age of seventeen he enrolled as a student at St. Martin’s School of Art, moving on two years later to the Central School. Initially working in a Dada and Surrealist style, his interest in mathematics led him to become interested in geometric abstraction, which he felt represented a more rational aesthetic. Visiting Paris in early 1950, he met Sonia Delaunay, George Vantongerloo (a founder member of De Stijl) and Francis Picabia. Another artist who influenced him was Frantisek Kupka, of the Orphic Cubism movement. Hill was particularly inspired by Piet Mondrian’s work and the following year joined the “Constructionist Group”, a late offshoot of the Constructivist movement associated with revolutionary Russia. Other members included Kenneth and Mary Martin, Adrian Heath, Roger Hilton, William Scott, Victor Pasmore and Robert Adams—the latter two were at the Central School at the same time as Hill.  Publishing a manifesto-like Broadsheet that same year, the group showed their work both at Gimpel Fils and the AIA Gallery, in exhibitions entitled British Abstract Arts and Abstract Paintings Sculptures Mobiles respectively. The Constructionists were not working in a vacuum, but were in touch with artists on the Continent, including Marcel Duchamp, the Swiss abstractionist Max Bill, and the American abstract painter Charles Biederman. They avidly read Biederman’s 1948 treatise, Art as the Evolution of Visual Knowledge.

From contact sheet: John Ernest and Anthony Hill, 1956.
Photograph: Adrian Flowers

The Constructionists epitomised the search for a Modernism that would be viable within the complex aesthetics of post-war Britain. Although he had been making geometrically-based collages for some time, in 1952 Hill made his first abstract relief. By 1953, he had abandoned colour, and was making stark black and white paintings, in which geometry and free-form drawing were held in tension. A large painting (now lost) Catenary Rhythms was included in the exhibition Artist versus Machine held at the Building Centre, London, in 1954. That same year, along with Stephen Gilbert and others, Hill featured in Lawrence Alloway’s Nine Abstract Artists, a book which sought to distinguish between ‘genuine’ abstract art, and the more or less random styles adopted by those who had rejected figurative art, but who Alloway felt followed no coherent aesthetic. Alloway’s preference for ‘structural’ artists such as Hill, William Scott, Terry Frost and Kenneth and Mary Martin, was based on a conscious opposition to the expressive abstraction epitomised by Peter Lanyon and other St. Ives artists. The group showed at the Redfern Gallery in 1955, with a catalogue written by Hill and the following year were given prominence in the Whitechapel exhibition This is Tomorrow. Adrian Flowers was a steady presence at the centre of this ferment of creativity, photographing the artists in their studios as they prepared their work for exhibition.

contact sheet image of relief construction by Anthony Hill.
Photograph: Adrian Flowers

After the Whitechapel exhibition, Hill gave up painting entirely, concentrating instead on three-dimensional work. In 1958 his reliefs were shown at the ICA, by which time he was incorporating sheet copper, brass, zinc and stainless steel in these wall-mounted works. The following year Hill and Gillian Wise, another graduate of the Central School of Art, became partners, and in 1962, Hill organised the exhibition Construction: England: 1950-60 at the Drian Gallery, a space founded by the Lithuanian Halima Nalecz, to represent artists excluded from West End Galleries. This was to be the last group exhibition of the Constructionists, and apart from the support of a small band of loyal curators and collectors, they faded from view. Hill and Wise went on to collaborate on works, including Metal Relief with Horizontal Elements (1962) now in the National Galleries of Scotland. In 1963 the couple showed in the exhibition Reliefs/Structures at the ICA.

Based on a high-minded aspiration towards an art that was self-referential and bore no relationship to the world of visible reality, Hill’s aesthetic was intellectual and personal. His often dogmatic assertion of the primacy of this approach led him to write theoretical essays, to explain his approach to making art. However, even within the rarefied world of mathematics, assertions of neutrality were not possible, and Hill’s art and writings can be read today as polemical, personal and even combative assertions regarding society, aesthetics, and the politics of his time. In 1968 Faber and Faber published Data: Directions in Art, Theory, and Aesthetics, a compilation of essays edited by Hill that consciously echoed the 1938 publication Circle, which had featured Naum Gabo, Ben Nicholson and others. Hill’s introductory essay, reflecting his own rigorous approach to making art, was entitled “Programme, Paradigm and Structure”. The following year, led by Jeffrey Steele, a number of UK artists working in this mode formed the “Systems Group”. Less committed to Marxist ideologies, Kenneth and Mary Martin, along with Hill, preferred not to become involved. However Wise, who had been researching Russian Constructivism in the Soviet Union, did join, and eventually this led to her breaking with Hill, who went on to pursue his own career. He subsequently married the Japanese ceramic artist Yuriko Kaetsu (1953-2013). In 1983 he had a retrospective exhibition at the Hayward Gallery and by the early 1970’s was making free-standing geometric constructions. In 1973-4 he adopted the name Achill Redo, under which moniker he exhibited at the Mayor Gallery and Angela Flowers Gallery, and wrote texts that pay homage to the Dadaists and Surrealists. In 1994 his Duchamp anthology Duchamp: Passim was published by Gordon and Breach. In 2012, he was included in the exhibition Concrete Parallels in Sao Paulo, Brazil. By this time, Hill was suffering from bouts of depression that sometimes made it impossible for him to welcome visitors to his studio, and was retreating into an intellectual and personal universe not unlike that of Humphrey Earwicker in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.

“I asked LSC for a kick-start idea for do it. He gave me his take, but insisted I don’t credit him or refer to him by name. But I have done it. Lafcadio Svensen Carner, he said the short auteur’s cut was not to do it, to do nothing, i.e., it is not a thing you can overtly do. (How do they do it, these megamind pscientists?) They will never finally, really succeed in doing it when it = the grand theory about every it/thing. Best to switch to art, especially abstract art or pure absolutart—that’s where to aim (or aim to miss, as several stratagists convey). Re: doing it right, LSC said, “I could only come up with, you can either do it right or wrong, there is no tertium whatshit. (i.e. excluturd middleterm), there is the theologic of it. That and O’Kamm’s shaver, to the restcu.” (Achill Redo 2012)

Although characterised as an artist who championed rational intellect over emotional feeling, and methodical planning over spontaneous expression,  Anthony Hill’s work reveals not only a love of mathematics, but also an appreciation of the intuitive nature of art making. His work was informed by the development of computer language, with its emphasis on logic and patterns of connectivity, and he was equally immersed in the ebb and flow of 20th century art movements, such as De Stijl and the Russian Constructivists, but ultimately there is a personal introspective quality in his art that reveals the extent to which he was on an increasingly solitary quest, exploring philosophical questions on the nature of human consciousness and apprehension of the world.

Anthony Hill died in October 2020

Text by Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright

Adrian Flowers Archive ©



Beethoven’s last piano at Beethoven-Haus. Photograph by Adrian Flowers

Job No. 6482 
28th November – 3rd December 1969 Beethoven

In late November 1969,  at the request of the Observer magazine, Adrian Flowers travelled to Bonn, and then to Vienna, photographing places and artefacts associated with Ludwig van Beethoven, whose bi-centenary would fall the following year. In Bonn, Flowers went to the “Beethovens Gerburtshaus” at No. 20 Bonngasse, where on 16th December 1770 the composer was born. One of the few old buildings to survive in the city, this eighteenth-century Baroque house now houses a museum, the Beethoven-Haus. When Flowers visited, it was not only a photographer’s eye that drew him to some of the key exhibits, but also a sensitive response to the frustrations of Beethoven, who was forced to use ear trumpets, and to pound the piano keyboard, in an attempt to overcome his deafness. The photographs taken by him evoke in a powerful way what Beethoven must have suffered, as this condition made it almost impossible for the composer to hear his own playing of the piano or violin.

The grand piano at No. 20 Bonngasse is one of three—and the last—played by Beethoven. Made in Vienna by instrument maker Conrad Graf (1782-1851), it was loaned to the composer in 1826. Judging by the condition of the ivory keys today, it is tempting to envision Beethoven wearing them out with his heavy playing. The ivories have evidently been replaced on at least one occasion, then worn down again, like nails bitten to the quick—an image captured in one of Flowers’ most expressive photographs. With its label ‘L. van Beethofen”,  the piano could be read as a testament to the frustrations experienced by the composer. However this is probably a romantic notion, as the composer died in 1827 and the Graf piano has been played many times since then, by other musicians. The ear trumpets and acoustic instruments, also photographed by Flowers, provide more telling evidence of the composer’s deafness. They were made for Beethoven by Johann Nepomunk Mälzel, a Czech inventor who also invented the metronome.

Beethoven’s last piano, at Beethoven-Haus, No.20 Bonngasse, made by Conrad Graf. Photograph by Adrian Flowers

Flowers’ photographs of piano and artefacts appeared a year later, in an article written by Colin Cross and published in the Observer magazine on 29th November 1970. Other photographs by Flowers that accompanied the article include an interior view of the ornate concert hall of the Vienna Friends of Music, founded in 1814. The Friends were so mean-spirited in paying Beethoven that he nicknamed them the ‘Musikfiend’, or enemies of music. Nevertheless, they were friendly enough to allow Flowers to photograph their collection of historic violins. He also visited the Vienna Academy of Music, photographing seven year-old Ulrike Brodl practising the piano. Sadly, the hopes expressed by the Observer in 1969, that Brodl would become a prodigy, appear not to have been borne out. The article was illustrated also with a photograph by Flowers of the autograph score for Symphony No. 3, the “Eroica”. This had been dedicated in 1803 to the composer’s hero Napoleon, but when the latter crowned himself Emperor—a political act that infuriated Beethoven—the composer scratched out the dedication with the nib of his quill pen, lamenting “Is he then, too, nothing more an ordinary human being?” The repudiation seemed complete (and its mythologizing certainly was) until Napoleon’s brother Jerome, crowned king of Westphalia, asked Beethoven to become court composer, a move thwarted by patrons in Vienna, who paid him to remain in the Austrian capital.

Observer magazine article 29th November 1970

Other photographs that are preserved in the AF Archive, but did not appear in the 1970 Observer article, include the exterior of No. 20 Bonngasse, the attic bedroom where Beethoven was born, autograph scores, a pencil sketch of the composer by August von Kloeber, a 1905 bronze bust by Russian-born sculptor Naoum Aronson, in the museum garden, and a detail of the bronze monument, sculpted by Caspar von Zumbusch in 1880, in Beethovenplatz in Vienna.

In another article in that same issue of the Observer magazine, Peter Heyworth wrote about Beethoven: “Like most men of his age (he was born the same year as Wordsworth), he was generally sympathetic to the ideals of 1789, liked to consider himself a democrat and cultivated a gruff egalitarian manner that shocked the courtier in Goethe, born a crucial 21 years earlier. . . Until disillusionment set in, he regarded Napoleon as the liberator of mankind, and if that sounds naïve, it pales before the eulogies heaped on Stalin’s head by British intellectuals in the days of the Popular Front.”  In the British cultural world of the early 1970’s, Beethoven occupied an uneasy place, admired for his musical genius but suspect because of his pan-European credentials and Promethean undertones. In A Clockwork Orange (1971), a film based on Anthony Burgess’s novel, the protagonist Alex, subjected to aversion therapy, complains  “I wake up. The pain and sickness all over me like an animal. Then I realised what it was. The music coming up from the floor was our old friend, Ludwig Van, and the dreaded Ninth Symphony”. In A Clockwork Orange, a direct link is drawn between Beethoven’s music and anarchic violence and terror. In 2019, for different, but perhaps related, reasons, a group of 29 British MEP’s turned their backs when his Ode to Joy, an extract from the Ninth Symphony and the anthem of the European Union, was played at the Parliament in Strasbourg. With the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth now being celebrated, half a century after Flowers visited Bonn and Vienna, his photographs are as visually eloquent today, as they were then.

The room where Beethoven was born, Beethoven-Haus, No.20 Bonngasse

Text: Peter Murray

Editor & publisher: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Assistants at Adrian Flowers Studio Photographers

Steve Garforth

Steve Garforth in 1973

Meeting with Steve Garforth, who settled in France in 2014, provides a unique insight into the work of the Adrian Flowers studio in the early 1970’s. During those years, the studio was housed in ‘The Tower House’, at No. 46 Tite Street, Chelsea. Although Garforth was employed as a first assistant photographer, in this photograph, taken around 1973, he had volunteered to stand in for a lighting ‘set up’. The photograph shows him wearing an exotic shawl, the work of a textile designer [name unknown] who had a studio next door. In 1972, having seen Flowers’ exhibition In the Round at the Angela Flowers Gallery, Garforth, a Yorkshireman, was inspired to become a professional photographer.

He applied for a position at the studio, and after several interviews, and a good deal of perseverance, was taken on as an assistant. These were heady years, when commissions flowed in from top magazines and advertising agencies. Garforth describes Flowers as ‘an innovator and a problem solver’. Agencies would come with ideas; the studio team would assemble for a detailed briefing and brainstorming session, a strategy would be agreed and a presentation prepared. The agencies were invariably impressed. For one campaign, for the Wool Board’s ‘Wool Mark’, Garforth recalls they constructed a black-out studio in a field, in order to photograph sheep, including a prize ram named ‘James’.

Other campaigns, for companies such as Young & Rubicam, included cigarette brands Silk Cut and Benson & Hedges. They also did work for Caravans International, covers for the Observer magazine, and many shoots with Arthur Parsons. Garforth remembers the team at the Tower House; the vivacious Gala Pinion, studio secretary, Kathy Vibert, Tor Hildyard (daughter of Harold McMillan) and assistant photographs such as Tony McGee, who did not last long at Tite Street but went on to surprise everyone by becoming a famous Vogue photographer. The studio printer at Tite Street was Tony. Garforth, who worked as first assistant photographer, recalls Flowers’ love of music, primarily jazz—Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Miles Davis— but also his occasional forays into Stockhausen, music which was not so popular with the studio team. He also recalls Flowers’ tendency to file material, rather than dispose of it, a tendency that led to the growth of the AF Archive into a substantial entity. Initially, the archive was housed in a number of garages in Clapham, before being moved to France—and, more recently, to West Cork.

In 1976, Garforth, having gained experience with complex technical assignments, and learned something of Flowers’ love of the surreal, was the photographer for Curved Air’s album Airborne, and the following year he was responsible for Steeleye Span’s Original Masters. Moving on to establish his own independent career, for over two decades Garforth specialised in photographing cars, work that took him around the world. Along with this, his exquisite still lives and portrait work remain an important part of his oeuvre. In the first decade of the century, Garforth and his wife Bea restored San Bartomeo de Torres, a medieval priory near Girona.

Even after a span of forty years, Garforth remembers Flowers with fondness:  “Adrian could be exacting, never suffered fools and would explain the simplest thing in the most eloquent manner, but he was kind, thoughtful and generous to all who worked with him. If you graduated from Adrian’s studio you were guaranteed a good career and we all owe him so much for that. . . When we moved to France in 2014 I wanted to help Adrian take pictures again. He had so many wonderful still lives set up around the barn, but when I asked him had he taken pictures of them, he simply replied “these days only with my eyes” “

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Artists Portraits

Mary Martin (1907-1969)

Mary Martin with model of installation Environment for the Whitechapel exhibition ‘This is Tomorrow’ taken from contact sheet of photgraphs by Adrian Flowers

In 1955 Adrian Flowers photographed artists Mary and Kenneth Martin in their studio in London. At the time, Mary was working on her maquette for Environment, an installation she, in collaboration with architect John Weeks, created for the This is Tomorrow exhibition held at the Whitechapel Gallery the following year. As was usual at the time, Martin repaid Adrian for his work by gifting him Expanding Form, a three dimensional work made of Perspex, stainless steel and wood. Years later, in 1984, Adrian loaned this work to the retrospective exhibition of Mary Martin’s work, held at the Tate Gallery. One of his 1955 photographs was also used for the catalogue that accompanied this exhibition.

Born in Folkestone, Kent in 1907, Mary Martin (née Balmford) was one of the most influential abstract artists to work in Britain in the post war period. In the latter half of the 1920’s she studied at both Goldsmiths’ College and the Royal College of Art. In 1930 she married fellow student Kenneth Martin; they had two sons, John and Paul. Although Mary died prematurely, in 1969, she left behind a legacy of artworks that have continued to shape people’s view of what “Modern Art” meant to Britain in the post-war decades. Having raised, along with her husband Kenneth, a family during the 1940’s, Martin was in no position to become a full-time artist until 1950, by which time she was in her ‘forties. Her career spanned just two decades, but during that time she made a considerable impression, achieving recognition for an intellectually rigorous approach to the making of art. Her first abstract reliefs date from 1951. Commissioned to curate an exhibition of abstract art for the Festival of Britain in 1950, Kenneth was a catalyst in Martin’s decision to abandon figurative painting in favour of abstract art. Influences included the work of Piet Mondrian, J. W. Power’s The Elements of Pictorial Construction, and artist friends, notably Victor Pasmore and Adrian Heath. Whether constructed in two or three dimensions, Martin’s work was shaped by classical geometries and vectors, with echoes of the art of paper folding, or Origami. With its mathematical basis—not least an interest in Fibonacci sequence and the ‘Golden Section’—her work was also in many ways an artistic response to the technological developments then taking place in the world of logic and computing, reflecting the philosophies of both Plato and of George Boole. As with computer switching, many of her constructions contain elements that appear open or closed, black or white, positive or negative—operating visually in much the same way as hinged windows on the façade of a building. This architectural quality in her work is not accidental;  in 1956 Martin collaborated with Kenneth Martin and the architect John Weeks, in building an installation in the influential Whitechapel Gallery exhibition This is Tomorrow, and not long afterwards designed a free-standing wall for Musgrave Park hospital  Belfast. Her monumental frieze-like wall construction, made for the University of Stirling in 1969 and experienced by thousands of students, still serves as a powerful expression of how Modernism shaped British society and intellectual thought during these years. What was important to Martin was that her work could operate in a purely architectonic way. She was less interested in applying artworks as an afterthought to a building. She was an influential artist, not least because of her writings on art and architecture, many of which were published in the Dutch architectural magazine Structure. 

Mary Martin with Black Relief 1957(?), perspex and wood. Photograph from Tate Catalogue 1984

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Dancers Musicians Portraits

Christian Holder – diadems and dance

Christian Holder, Arthur “Boscoe” Holder and Sheila Clarke

Early in January 1966, Adrian Flowers took a series of portrait photographs of his longtime friends, the Holder family.  Along with their 16 year-old son Christian, Arthur “Boscoe” Holder and his wife Sheila Clarke were the toast of London at this time. Christian, having trained as a dancer at the Corona Academy Stage School in London, was a scholarship student at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York. Returning to London to spend Christmas with his parents, he could not return to America because of a New York Transit strike, and so stayed on in England over the New Year. On January 4th he accompanied his parents to Flowers’ studio in Tite Street, Chelsea. Christian remembers the photo shoot well, and describes Adrian as a warm and gracious person. The photographs convey the poise and self-confidence that characterise the Holder family. Elegantly dressed, they form a striking group, with Christian standing taller than his father. The photographs show him dressed in a variety of fashionable Mod outfits, trousers and polonecks, as well as demonstrating a series of dramatic and vigorous dance poses. There are close-ups of his mother Sheila, her hair bejwelled, and photographs of her wearing elegant evening dresses.

Sheila Clarke photographed by Adrian Flowers January 1966
Christian Holder, January 1966, wearing a coffee coloured camel hair jacket bought in Carnaby St
Christian Holder wearing a tweed outfit made for him

Prominent in the world of art, dance and theatre, the Holder family brought together the vitality of the Caribbean, with the artistic flair of New York and the sophisticated audiences of London. Born in 1921 in Trinidad, Christian’s father Boscoe, and his English-born mother Sheila were both professional dancers. As well as being a celebrated pianist, Boscoe was a talented painter, specialising in portraits and Trinidadian scenes. His “Women in White” series, featuring black models wearing Edwardian garments and French West Indian national dress were among his most sought-after paintings. His work, which was exhibited in London at the Redfern Gallery, is in collections around the world. Boscoe taught for a time in the United States, at the Katherine Dunham School, before moving to London in 1950 where he and Sheila founded their dance troupe, “Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers”, presenting “Bal Creole” on BBC television that same year. He played piano at London clubs, and in the early 1960’s co-owned the “Hay Hill”, a club in Mayfair, where he and Sheila appeared in cabaret. From 1959 to 1963, Boscoe produced, costumed and choreographed a floor show at the May Fair Hotel’s “Candlelight Room”, while simultaneously leading a group of musicians at the hotel called “The Pinkerton Boys”. This group alternated three sets a night with top bandleader Harry Roy’s musicians. Celebrated in London’s theatre world, Boscoe and Sheila formed close friendships with Noel Coward and costume designer Oliver Messel. Their introduction of Trinidadian steel bands to Britain in 1950 signalled the beginning of a love affair with West Indian music that eventually culminated in the annual Notting Hill carnivals.

Not least because of this artistic talent, Christian’s family, on both sides, were able to side-step the colonial stratification of West Indian society. His maternal grandmother, Kathleen Davis, had attended Redland High School for Girls in Bristol as a child. She acted alongside Paul Robeson in the 1935 production of Stevedore in London, and also played the role of Kamera in Debt of Honour, a film made the following year, starring stage and screen star Leslie Banks. Upon her return to Trinidad her radio show for children, “Aunty Kay’s Children’s Hour”, was a long-running hit on Radio Trinidad.

Kathleen’s daughter—by her first marriage, to Percival McIntosh Clarke, who qualified as a doctor from Queen’s College, Belfast, in 1929—was Christian’s mother Sheila. Christian followed in the family tradition, from an early age training as a dancer and actor in London.  His debut came when he was just four years old, when, along with his father and mother, he danced at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Christian Holder, aged 16, January 1966

As a young child, Christian played “Pip” in Moby Dick – Rehearsed, a (unfinished) film commissioned in 1955 by the BBC and directed by Orson Welles.  In 1963 he won a scholarship to study at the Martha Graham School in New York, and by the late 1960’s was a leading member of the Joffrey Ballet. A decade later he was appearing with, and choreographing for, San Francisco Opera productions. During these years, Christian also choreographed for other companies, including American Theatre Ballet and Atlanta Ballet. He designed costumes for Ballet du Capitole in Toulouse, France, and taught ballet at several studios and schools, including the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. The principal designer for Tina Turner from 1973-1984, he is also a painter. Several exhibitions of his work have been held, including a London show in 2010, where his paintings were shown alongside those of his father and Oliver Messel. His paintings are currently being exhibited together with his father’s at Campbells of London, in South Kensington. (

Christian’s one-man show as a cabaret singer, “At Home and Abroad” was a hit in London’s West end in 2015. It was performed three years later at ‘Feinstein’s/54 Below’ in New York, and then in 2019 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. That same year he made his debut at the New York Cabaret Convention at the Lincoln Center.

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Adrian Flowers Studio Editorial

Adrian Flowers and the Observer magazine

Beginning in 1967, Adrian Flowers received the first of many commissions to photograph covers for the Observer magazine. For journalist Hilda Hunter, a specialist on rare animals, he provided suitably regal images of a Rex cat, while for an feature by Maureen Green, marking the anniversary of women getting the vote, he photographed a group of veteran Suffragette campaigners, standing with banners for ‘Womens Freedom League’ and ‘National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies’. The veterans included Stella Newsome, Grace Roe, Lady Winstead, Beryl Bower, Mrs. Duval (Una Dugdale), Dame Kathleen Courtney, Jessie Kenny and Mary Stocks. During the shoot, Adrian’s assistant Bob Cramp recalled the women swapping stories of how they had flouted the law in their youth.

5th December 1967 reunion of the Suffragettes
Bald Rex Cat for the Observer 1968

Most of the Observer commissions came to Adrian via Raymond Hawkey, who had been appointed head graphic designer at the newspaper the previous year. Renowned for his use of bold graphic images and san serif fonts, Hawkey is perhaps best-remembered for his series of memorable covers for the 1960’s Pan paperback series of James Bond novels. The Observer commissions he brought to Adrian were wide-ranging. A close-up of a hand grenade dominated the magazine’s front cover for 11 June 1967: “Aden: the shattering end of Britain’s love affair with Arabia”. For a feature on ‘the shape of schools to come’ (2 July 1967) Adrian photographed a school satchel, containing magnetic tapes, a Stillitron and other futuristic learning aids, alongside conventional pencils and paper. Partly hidden behind a headphone set, a ‘Wild Flowers’ cigarette card provided a classic Adrian Flowers signature touch. The following week’s cover featured a close-up of a golf ball, for ‘The World of King Caddie’, while a breakfast fry-up, with coffee in an enamel mug, provided an apt image, on 27 August, for ‘Gourmets’ Guide to Transport Cafés’. On 17 September, a disconsolate bride in a dustbin, veiled and still holding her bouquet, was an arresting, and Beckettian, image for ‘Are we the last married generation?’. These images captured the essence of Britain’s fast-rising middle class, who shared disenchantment with a colonial past, fascination with new technology, and who welcomed the blurring of social identities.

A selection of the Observer covers photographed by Adrian Flowers in 1967

Hawkey created a visual language that expressed the tenor of an age, one in which confidence and insecurity vied for dominance. Influenced by American designers and photographers such as Saul Bass, Herb Lubalin, Alexander Liberman, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, his own career reflected these shifts in society; after a childhood in Cornwall, he attended art college in Plymouth, winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. At the RCA, along with Len Deighton, he was art editor for Ark, the college magazine, causing a minor scandal by featuring a nude photograph on the front cover—photography was disapproved of at the Royal College. Adrian Flowers was also a friend of Deighton, having met him in 1947 while both trained as photographers with the RAF. Following success in a competition run by Vogue magazine, Hawkey worked for its publishers, Condé Nast, for several years. He then moved on to the Daily Express, before becoming head designer at the Observer, where he revitalised the colour magazine that came with the newspaper. The easing up of newsprint rationing in the late 1950’s enabled newspapers to expand and develop, and the Observer caught the spirit of the times. Although he was nattily-dressed, soft spoken and invariably polite, Hawkey’s imagery could be shocking and at times disturbing. Len Deighton asked him to design front covers for his novels, including The Ipcress File, with Adrian providing images for Hawkey to use in designs for several of these novels. 

Deighton Dossier includes a chapter on Photography written by Adrian Flowers

Image of the Suffragettes was used in Diane Atkinson’s 2018 book Rise up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes.

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Artists Portraits

Icosahedral structure of virus revealed 1959

Poliomyelitis virus model by sculptor John Ernest.
Photograph by Adrian Flowers

In November 1959 Adrian Flowers was asked by Sir Aaron Klug to photograph the model constructed by sculptor John Ernest. Although research into the spherical nature of viruses had already been carried out by Francis Crick and James Watson, in the mid-1950’s, using X-Ray photography, the icosahedral structure of the Poliomyelitis virus was first identified by John Finch (1930-2017) and Sir Aaron Klug (1926-2018). In appearance, the icosahedral form of the polio virus is similar to the geodesic domes developed and popularised by Buckminster Fuller during that same period. In 1948, J. Bernel, head of the Department of Physics at Birkbeck College, set up the Biomolecular Research Laboratory, at 21 Torrington Square, where Rosalind Franklin led a small group of researchers. After joining Franklin’s team as assistant and student, as part of his doctoral research Finch studied the three-dimensional structure of viruses using microscopic photography. In 1958, Franklin died prematurely, and Aaron Klug, who had also joined the team, took over her work and the supervision of her students, Finch and Ken Holmes, who both graduated the following year. In spite of concerns of staff at Birkbeck College, Klug and Finch began researching the polio virus. Samples of this virus had been brought into England, from Berkeley University in the US, on a regular airline flight—albeit in crystalline form. Mounted within fused quartz glass so as not to infect people, the tiny spherical viruses were housed at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, from where they were brought to the Royal Institution, where Finch photographed them using high intensity X-ray cameras. The resulting images revealed the icosahedral structure of the tiny spheres.

This pioneering research, by Franklin, Klug and Finch, enabled large-scale models of both TMV and polio viruses to be constructed by sculptor John Ernest (1922-1994), to help in publicising this breakthrough in medical science. Born in Philadelphia, Ernest was an abstract sculptor who had settled in England. Studying at St. Martin’s School of Art, he was influenced by Victor Pasmore, and became part of the constructivist group that included Anthony Hill and Kenneth and Mary Martin. Fascinated by mathematics and interested in new materials, he used polystyrene to make the poliomyelitis models. At the request of Aaron Klug, prior to their being transported to Brussels, where they were to be displayed in the International Science Pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair, the models were photographed, in the hallway of Birkbeck College, by Adrian Flowers.

Photographs of the virus models built by Ernest were also taken by John Finch himself, and these can be seen at

John Ernest picture with his Poliomyelitis virus model. Photograph by Adrian Flowers

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©

Adrian Flowers Studio Portraits

Adrian Flowers: an appreciation

by Matthew Flowers

Adrian with his three sons: (l-r) Matthew, Daniel, Adam

He was eccentric. To the extent that when I was born in 1956, two weeks late and almost 10 pounds, Adrian’s primary concern at the birth was getting a good sound recording of the action. Despite the fact that I was silent on arrival, my mother was certainly not, when she brought me into this world. As soon as things had calmed down in the kitchen of England’s Lane, Haverstock Hill, above the electrical shop, Adrian’s first inclination was to go upstairs and relive the experience through the recording.

Like many of us, Adrian was full of contradictions. A man who expressed zero interest in sport, yet was quietly, and highly, competitive. He ensured we always had the biggest firework displays amongst our friends. When I was 7 he visited me at boarding school on sports day. Consuming biscuits as part of a race against parents to see who could eat the quickest, he made sure he won. But as with all Flowers, he would never leave a plate with food left on it anyway.

Adrian had a lifelong interest in music, particularly jazz, and he was an exceptional talent at the piano. At Sherborne, the headmaster reported to his father Edward that Adrian was distracted from his academic studies by his interest in playing the piano. Edward had already been disappointed by the vocational fate of Geoffrey, Adrian’s brother, who became a piano teacher, organist and composer. Edward advised the headmaster to put a stop to Adrian’s piano playing. Adrian made up for that disappointment by facilitating and encouraging all four of his children to become fine musicians themselves.

He loved cats. There was always at least one cat in all of his households. But the greatest animal love of his life was Sarah the dog, a beautiful Labrador-boxer whose football skills matched George Best and who was the subject of many photographic portraits. Named after the jazz singer Sarah Vaughan, Sarah was the catalyst to Adrian’s other great pastime – walking and talking on Hampstead Heath. He instigated a Sunday morning tradition of walks on the Heath with Sarah and any family that was around.

Sarah “fastest footballing dog”

After the walks were yet more talks. Adrian gathered many artist friends to our house on Patshull Road later on Sundays. He had a love of British constructivist art – Kenneth Martin, Anthony Hill, John Ernest, Victor Pasmore. He placed sculpture by Denis Mitchell and Brian Wall in our house. When Adrian rubbed the tall metal curve of the Mitchell piece, money would mysteriously fall to the floor. I have less fond memories of Brian Wall’s heavy steel construction. One day a strong friend of Adam’s tied a rope through its metal bars, pulled it to the floor, catching the end of my foot in the process and breaking my toe.
A happier memory from my childhood was the game Adrian played with us loosely titled “Sit Still.” We were called to Adrian’s lap to sit perfectly still on his knee otherwise we’d be dropped to the floor. Somehow, we all always ended up on the floor.

He believed in the power of advertising and was sometimes obsessive in pursuit of the perfect image. When commissioned for what I recall was a legwear advertisement, he searched long and hard for the “ideal knees,” and had countless women in his studio showing him their legs, none of which fit the bill. In exasperation he finally asked his assistant Gala to show him her knees, and had his Eureka moment that the perfect knees were right in front of him. Gala’s knees became the subject of a famous postcard commissioned by Angela Flowers Gallery for their 1971 postcard exhibition.

We were often the beneficiaries of the props leftover from Adrian’s sets. When Adrian would do cigarette ads, he would come home with cartons of cigarettes, which Dan and I would steal on a regular basis. He once did an ad for an ice cream company that had 32 different flavors. He created a photograph of 4 cones, each with 8 scoops of ice cream on it. He brought home the remaining ice cream from the set to our delight.

A little known passion of his was boating. His childhood in Portsmouth was a likely start for this. When I was about seven he bought a boat called Edith 2. Our family took a memorable trip on her from London up the Thames to Pangbourne. He took Edith 2 from London to Mill Cove, county Cork, in the late 60s. Edith 2 had an inbuilt motor which made the boat heavy. I was charged with going down at dawn to bail out any overnight water ingress. When I got there, there was no sign of Edith. She had sunk to the bottom of the cove. On another boat, I spent a week on the Norfolk Broads with him during the summer of 1973. It was a happy trip for me.

Over the years Adrian had many Alvis cars, culminating in two giant saloons, both blue. The reason he had two was that one was always in the garage being fixed. Soon after I passed my driving test I was allowed to drive one on my own. It was like driving a tank.
He idolized his three siblings, all of whom were significantly older than him. He only got to know some of his nieces and nephews as adults, many of whom visited him here in France.
He came to France in 1996, with Françoise. He loved the sun, good food, and a quieter life than London. He never learned French.

The Moulin allowed him the opportunity to create his archive in the famous barn, with the help of Brian Durling, who is here today. The barn was the culmination of his life’s work. It was Adrian’s personal museum, library, oasis, office, studio, escape, home, legacy and spirit. He cherished every single item in the barn, from his rare vintage cameras, lights, tripods, scaffolding, magazine and newspaper collections, set props, preparatory materials from adverts, negatives, transparencies, polaroids, prints, printing equipment, posters, artworks, video tapes, books, portfolios, objects that he wanted to photograph, like old metal, tree trunks, pieces of wood, rotting fruits. Nothing escaped his eye, and nothing escaped from the barn. He was fiercely protective of its contents. On many occasions over the last ten years I tried to borrow various items with a view to formally cataloguing his remarkable career and rare archive. He was insistent that nothing be removed, dismantled or dispersed for any purpose by anyone.

Adrian Flowers film by Luke Tomlinson

Over the last week I’ve had many kind messages from people who have known Adrian. Len Deighton who knew Adrian well through being RAF photographers together just after the second world war, said “I want to assure you that your father was very philosophical about everything. So don’t be sad on his behalf. He will have taken death in his stride, as he did everything else.”

A few memories and reflections others have shared have stood out as well: dentist’s chair, spooky fishtank, end of an era, eccentric individual, individual, master of his Life hobby, profession and innovator extraordinaire, the holder of waddery, all his paperwork, the Stuff Merchant of Tite Street, garages galore, giggling at the Marx brothers, being a great husband, a brilliant father and a wonderful grandfather.

Matt Flowers
May 2016

Adrian Flowers Studio

The great persuader

Advertising agencies have at last understood that images had to become more interesting to attract the attention of the public. They had to go from the natural to the supernatural, from the real to the surreal, in order to intrigue the onlooker and reach his unconscious in ways which had never been tried before in advertising. These sort of pictures are most effective and have high recall; but usually they are much too costly for the individual to attempt on his own. One would have to resort to painting! Adrian Flowers

Adrian Flowers created images that successfully conveyed the messages intended by advertisers. Often, these concepts originated in the United States, where a large and mobile middle class was being courted and influenced by Madison Avenue firms, operating with a hitherto unheard of sophistication, much of it based on the new science of “Motivational Research”. In his 1957 book The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard identified, almost for the first time in the wider public realm, the underlying structures, and architecture, of the consumer society. He revealed the widespread use of psychological triggers and subliminal messages in advertising, designed to induce desire amongst buyers, without their being aware of it. Products were no longer straightforward products, but brought with them the promise of higher social status, and new and glamorous lifestyles. With its cover illustration of a bright red apple impaled upon a fish hook, The Hidden Persuaders categorised psychological needs—including weaknesses, fears and anxieties—shared by people, and tracked how these were addressed by advertisers, often in a cynical way. These hidden needs included emotional security, a search for identity, self-gratification, love, sex, power and immortality. Advertisers found that particular colours, such as yellow and red, were effective, as were symbols and logos that had dream-like qualities. 

1972 Benson & Hedges

The techniques used were so effective they often contributed to impulsive and self-destructive behaviour, while also raising company profits. Based on the work of the Austrian-American Ernest Dichter, whose credo was to promote a lifestyle of corporate hedonism, Motivational Research and focus groups were among the methods used to develop brands. However, after Packard’s 1957 exposé, those using MR became more subtle in their approach. Brands were created and manipulated through the use of imagery that often sought to eliminate feelings of guilt in the consumer—at spending money on products that could be seen as indulgent, or even self-destructive, such as cigarettes or alcohol. Advertisers learned to change imagery and messages at will. Gender and gender manipulation was also regularly used. Society was divided into different classes, mainly, but not entirely, depending on income, and the burgeoning middle class became the key target audience for advertisers. Although intended, and read, as a critique of consumer society, Packard’s book had an equal and unintended effect, providing a concise and readable account of how advances in psychological profiling made it easy for advertising companies to earn their keep. Young people going into advertising could read The Hidden Persuaders, and knew instantly what was going on. Predictably, major advertising companies, particularly Ogilvy, cast cold water on Packard’s sensationalist style.

Both MR research and the advertising campaigns that resulted were imported into England during the 1950’s, into a country where class divisions were still largely in place, and where upward mobility was more restricted than in America. But the campaigns were no less successful. Paradoxically, it was in photography and advertising that people from working class backgrounds could often enjoy a new-found freedom and social mobility, and also earn a good living. The cockney photographer portrayed in Antononini’s film Blow Up was based loosely on real-life photographer David Bailey. While Brian Duffy, who worked as an assistant in the Flowers studio, became part of what Norman Parkinson dubbed ‘The Unholy Trinity’, a triad that also included Bailey and Terence Donovan.

In this world, Adrian Flowers occupied an almost unique position, in that his own family heritage included several generations of professional photographers, going back to the late nineteenth century. Flowers’ lifestyle was glamorous, and his studio, in Chelsea’s Tite Street, operated with a degree of professionalism and organisation that was lacking in many other studios in London. At it’s peak, the Adrian Flowers studio was considered the best in the city, and with London one of the world’s centres for advertising, there were good opportunities in the heady days when Motivational Research had turned advertising into a sophisticated and intellectually-driven industry.

“The Football pitch is Balsan” Balsan carpets 1981

Text: Peter Murray

Editor: Francesca Flowers

All images subject to copyright.

Adrian Flowers Archive ©