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Past, Present, Man, Nature: 5. “Clothes and other vanities”

Past, Present, Man, Nature: celebrating Jacquetta Hawkes.

An online exhibit by Alison Cullingford, Special Collections Librarian, University of Bradford.

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5. “Clothes and other vanities”

Soon after the war, Jacquetta became principal in the Ministry of Education, responsible for visual education.  The results included a film made in the Orkneys by the Crown Film Unit, “The beginning of history” (1946).  However, she decided to leave her successful career in the civil service in 1949 to concentrate on imaginative work.  This included film, for example, creating “Figures in a landscape” (1953), which set the work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth in geological context.

Design for costumes, Anglo-Saxon, Festival of Britain

Design for costumes, Anglo-Saxon, Festival of Britain

Jacquetta’s commitment to sharing the story of the past is shown in her work for the Festival of Britain (1951).  As archaeological advisor to the Festival, Jacquetta helped create the exhibits telling the story of the peoples of Britain.  The Archive includes detailed correspondence over two years discussing costumes, the shapes of chariots and bowls, and how to use the limited space and resources to best effect. This image shows one of Jacquetta’s detailed costume sketches. For her contribution, she received the OBE in the New Years Honours 1952.

Jacquetta with Laurie Lee

Jacquetta with Laurie Lee

Jacquetta excelled as a film-maker and exhibit designer partly because of her strong visual sense and love of art and design.  She said of herself in 1949, “She is fond of the visual arts, particularly in modern painting, and buys pictures with such money as is left over after indulging in a parallel fondness for clothes and other vanities”. Her clothes in photographs in the Archive are always a delight: this image of her with Laurie Lee shows her in a flowing New Look dress.  She was easily picked out at Aldermaston Marches in the 1950s and 1960s by her distinctive hats.