The Amateur Model

With little formal art training, an obsessive passion for accurate detail and the need to work to tight deadlines, Linley Sambourne turned to photography in the 1880s, the perfect tool for an artist in a hurry. Initially Sambourne relied upon friends, family, visitors and servants to model for him.

The King of Selfies!

The most enthusiastic amateur model was Linley Sambourne himself. From his earliest experiments with the camera he posed with an assistant operating the shutter. Such was his attention to detail, Sambourne would often ‘rough-out’ the image, positioning himself in place of the intended sitter. The results are often highly amusing, as Linley squeezed himself into costumes hired for somebody else.


The household typically comprised three staff; cook, parlourmaid and groom. Of the six grooms whom Sambourne employed from 1882 until his death, Jolley and Otley appear to been most adept at posing for photographs, given the considerable number of images of images they appear in.


Marion’s diaries record the impact of photography on family life and disturbance of daily routines as Linley's intensified his activities. Many entries relate to the inconvenience cause by the removal of furniture to the yards to serve as props or the discovery that servants had neglected household tasks as Linley had required them to model, the latter particularly vexing Marion who already thought Linley's

The Kindness of Strangers

Sambourne was quite happy to ask complete strangers to pose for him. Occasionally these direct requests led to a longer association with the sitter as was the case with local policeman Stace. Stace had a distinctive portly figure which Sambourne was able to use in a variety guises, and cast him in roles such as WG Grace or Bismark. Sambourne paid all his amateur models, although Stace came close to being semi-professional as, even after he had retired from the police, Sambourne paid for him to travel from his Balham home to model at 18 Stafford Terrace. During the period 1888-1901 Stace made over 20 visits to the Sambourne's amounting to his appearing in hundreds of photographs.

Sambourne's Family

Linley's family weren't excused from modelling for him, in the case of the Sambourne's children Maud and Roy they were photographed throughout much of their childhood up to young adulthood.


As to be expected from someone who didn't share her husband’s enthusiasm for her husband’s hobby, Marion is the family member that appears least in Sambourne's images. She was normally called upon for images that required a certain matronly bearing such as the 'Old Lady of Threadneedle Street'.



Visits are by Guided Tours

Mid-September to Mid-June

18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH