Bernard Dunstan, R.A. 1920 - 2017
Sir Hugh Casson lecturing
Photo: R.A./Prudence Cuming Associates Limited
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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Sir Hugh Casson lecturing, 1987
Oil on canvas, 276 X 211 X 20 mm
Given by Sir Hugh Casson's family, 2002
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Sir Hugh Casson (1910-1999) studied architecture at St John's College, Cambridge (1929-1932), The British School in Athens and University College London. He was appointed Director of Architecture for the 1951 Festival of Britain and in 1952 knighted for his contribution to the festival. His architectural practice Casson Conder & Partners designed projects such as the Sidgwick Avenue arts faculty buildings, Cambridge, Birmingham University's Faculty Club, the Ismaili Centre, South Kensington and the elephant house at London Zoo.

Casson was Professor of Environmental Design at the Royal College of Art from 1953 to 1975. He designed interiors for the Time Life building in London, private rooms in Buckingham Palace, the royal yacht Britannia, and RMS Canberra amongst others. Casson also designed theatre and opera productions for Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House.

A talented illustrator, Casson's pen and wash sketches were regularly exhibited and reproduced. As well as illustrating many of his own books and architectural guides, Casson illustrated publications by other writers including Sir John Betjeman's The Illustrated Summoned by Bells (1989) and The Old Man of Lochnagar (1980) by the HRH Prince of Wales. Several of his drawings were reproduced on decorative ceramics in the 1950s and 1960s.

Throughout his career Casson wrote on contemporary architectural issues and architectural history. In the late 1930s he was a journalist for Night and Day magazine and a key contributor to the column 'Astragal' in the Architects' Journal. Among his publications were New Sights of London: the handy guide to contemporary architecture (1938), Homes by the Millions: An account of the housing achievement in the U.S.A., 1940-1945 (1946), An Introduction to Victorian Architecture (1948) and Bridges (1963).

Hugh Casson was elected an A.R.A. in 1962, an R.A. in 1970 and a Senior R.A. in 1985. He was President of the Royal Academy from 1976-1984, when he was instrumental in founding the Friends of the Royal Academy.

The year before Dunstan's portrait was painted Sir John Summerson described Casson as 'the gentle knight, compact but slightly shaggy, reflective but also ambitious, a tiger for work, observing everything, absorbing much, sometimes grave, often witty' (Foreword to Hugh Casson Architect Etcetera. London: RIBA Heinz Gallery, 1986.).

This work is currently on display in the General Assembly Room at the Royal Academy of Arts and can be viewed by attending one of the free tours of the John Madejski Fine Rooms. Click here for further information about the tours