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An extraordinary mixed media work by artist Angus McBean from the 1978 exhibition “The Owl & The Pussycat”. 94 x 69 x 6.5cm (37 x 26.7 x 2.5 inches). 


The heavy and imposing frame gilded and heavily distressed, with vibrant green marbling running through the gold. The painstakingly crafted owl, completely covered with thousands of tiny white and gold glass beads, over a field of beautiful highly textured gold leaf. The whole complex, layered construction held together in clear resin. Signed and titled on a label to the back. The piece is mentioned in the artist's introduction to the exhibition as having taken 7 months to create and was listed at £820 (approx £6500 today).


Starting his career as a set and prop designer for the West End Theatre, McBean became one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century, creating unique, highly memorable portraits of Vivien Leigh, Audrey Hepburn and many other stars of stage and screen. His surrealist photography was so innovative, sophisticated and successful it’s difficult to appreciate how it was created decades before Photoshop. His experiments with mixed media, born from a frustration at not having mastered the art of painting, are much less well known. Including this one, we can only find 3 examples that have made it to the market in recent years.



There are 2 cracks to the resin. One at bottom left, the other runs across the top of the piece just above the owl's head. These will be from original casting imperfections, hairline cracks that have come under pressure with the expansion and contraction of the wood over the years. Some light yellowing to the resin in parts. In general it is in good solid condition and displays superbly.


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Angus McBean 'Wise Old Owl' 1978

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