Osbert Lancaster

Set and Costume Designer

Sir OSBERT LANCASTER CBE (1908-1986) was an English cartoonist, architectural historian, stage designer, author and illustrator. He studied at Oxford and London’s leading art colleges. During the 1930s, Lancaster published his first books on architecture, which allowed the general public to become familiar with architectural heritage and architectural terms. During his lifetime, Lancaster published several other editions.

In 1938, he received the invitation to draw cartoons for The Daily Express. From then, up until the artist’s retirement in 1981, Lancaster created around 10,000 cartoons, which appeared in various editions of the British press. During World War II, he worked for Great Britain's Ministry of Information, and later for the news department of the Foreign Office. He also served as the press attaché to the British embassy in Athens. After his return from Greece, he lectured at the University of Liverpool. His book illustrations remained in great demand, too.

Lancaster created his first costumes and stage set designs for theatre in 1951, for the Sadler's Wells ballet Pineapple Poll, choreographed by John Cranko. And by 1970, he had created set designs and costumes for The Royal Ballet, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, the Old Vic, and the West End.

Lancaster specialised in comical and lyrical productions. Only one of the 20 set designs created by him was for a thematically serious piece – Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes for the Bulgarian National Opera in Sofia. Three of the set designs created by Lancaster for The Royal Ballet are still in use to this day – Pineapple Poll, La fille mal gardée and Coppélia.


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