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Alvin Langdon Coburn, American, 1882 - 1966
Title: Le Penseur (George Bernard Shaw)
Date: 1906
Medium: Platinum palladium print
Sheet: 16 x 20.7 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 2020
Object Number: NGI.2020.43
DescriptionGeorge Bernard Shaw, best known as the witty author of plays that display a rare combination of drama, comedy, and social criticism, was also a passionate amateur photographer. He began taking photographs in 1898 and became an early advocate of photography as a serious art, publishing essays on the medium, reviewing exhibitions, and contributing to ongoing technical discussions.
It is partly thanks to Shaw that the photographer, Alvin Langdon Coburn gained his reputation as an acclaimed portrait photographer of the British intellectual elite. During Coburn’s second visit to London, in 1904, he befriended Shaw, who introduced him to some of the most prominent literary, artistic, and political figures in Britain, including George Meredith, H. G. Wells, and Henry James. Shaw, himself, loved being photographed, and Coburn happily obliged.
Drawing inspiration from Rodin’s The Thinker, Shaw’s body appears almost sculptural and one begins to notice aspects of the writer that normally remain concealed, such as the muscles in his arms and legs. Here, he is displayed as both physically and mentally strong.

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