This 1951 Christmas card opens to reveal not your typical holiday theme of snowmen and decorated evergreens. . .
. . . but a scene of a bearded man in a striped old-fashioned bathing suit photographing three Galluba and Hofmann bathing beauties posing on a rocky shore.
The card is by famed British photographer Angus McBean. Beginning in 1936, almost every year McBean created his own clever holiday cards, using both his skills both as a photographer and theatrical designer to create surrealistic black and white scenes.
Born in South Wales in 1904, McBean grew up fascinated by film and theatre, purchasing his first camera at the age of 15. He began his theatrical career in 1932, building scenery and props. In 1936, McBean took the production photographs for Ivor Novello’s play, “The Happy Hypocrite.” The photographs caught the eye of society photographer Hugh Cecil, who took McBean on as an assistant. Eighteen months later, McBean opened his own studio in London. His portraits included many of the talented and famous, from the great stars of the British theater to Agatha Christie, Laurence Olivier, and the Beatles. McBean died in 1990, on the night of his 86th birthday.
Another of McBean's works has appeared on this blog, in this 1983 advertisement for Nina Ricci.
However, the inspiration for the ad appears to be the black and white photomontage that appeared in McBean's 1982 Christmas card, which featured a mini-McBean sharing tea with the ladies as a larger McBean lifted the glass dome. The same seated trio of lovely ladies also starred in his 1956 card, which featured McBean, as a dapper Edwardian dandy, joining them for tea on the deck of the S.S Angus.
McBean apparently had quite a collection, as in his 1983 Christmas card, he appears reading a book (perhaps a bedtime story?) to an entire harem of nubile nudes and lace-clad bathing belles.