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PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN DEAKIN -- THE PROPERTY OF GEORGINA BARKER
'His portraits to me are the best since Nadar and Julia Margaret Cameron.' -- Francis Bacon1
This and the following five lots bear testament to the brilliance of one of the greatest portrait photographers of all time. His name could well have been forgotten, for the seeming indifference that he showed to his extraordinary achievements in this medium meant that virtually no negatives survived. The few scattered prints that today illustrate his career are for the most part unique relics -- as evidenced in the poignant inscription on the reverse of his portrait of Elizabeth Smart opposite -- and often bear the scars of having been treated wth casual disregard.
Fortunately one or two friends, and particularly the perceptive photo editor and historian Bruce Bernard, managed to preserve enough material to reconstruct his story and assure his lasting reputation. Bernard had the opportunity in 1985 to present an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum devoted to his 'dear, witty and wayward friend'. 'I hope,' he wrote in the catalogue introduction, 'that this small cache of treasure salvaged from the wreck gives an idea of what he could do...I regard his talent as one of the most impressive of the century....'2
In 1996 there followed a more extensive exhibition and book, respectively curated and written by Robin Muir whose research shed light on Deakin's work for Vogue, his reportage projects and further facets of his work as portraitist to a certain bohemian milieu of the 1950s. Muir presented unseen or forgotten prints, including a number that had been preserved by Deakin's friends, Elizabeth Smart and her husband George Barker, and that are offered here for sale for the first time.