Sir Edward Salisbury and Chrystel Lebas

Exhibition in Amsterdam of landscape and botanical photos across a century of change

Chrystel Lebas, speaking at the opening of the exhibition – G Ross, 10 December 2016

Huis Marseille museum of photography – entrance. The museum extends into the house to the left

A stunning exhibition of photographs by Sir Edward James Salisbury and Chrystel Lebas was mounted at the Huis Marseille Museum of Photography in Amsterdam. Gavin and Rosemary Ross of Harpenden Local History Society were delighted to be invited by Chrystel to the opening of “Regarding Nature” on 10 December 2016 at which Nanda van den Berg, Director of the museum, Dr Mark A Spencer, former Curator of the British and Irish Herbarium at the Natural History Museum in London, and Chrysel Lebas outlined the origins of the project.

Chrystel had for some years been researching a collection of landscape and botanical glass plates in the archives of the Natural History Museum, which in due course were identified as the work of E J Salisbury (1886-1978 former Director of Kew). Together with Kath Castillo, Research Assistant and curator of the E J Salisbury collection, she retraced Edward Salisbury’s steps in Scotland (including Arrochar, Aviemore in the Cairngorms and the Culbin Sands on the Moray Firth) and at Blakeney Point in Norfolk, building on Salisbury’s observations of the changes to landscape and species by the influences of climate and human activity.

Chrystel contacted the Society through our website to find out more about Edward Salisbury’s origins in Harpenden, and for contacts who had collections of his early pamphlets. Born in 1886 at Limbrick Hall almost surrounded by Harpenden Common, Edward was the youngest of James Wright Salisbury’s nine children. As a 10 year old boy he started studying the flora and ecology of his surroundings and as a teenager met Lawes and Gilbert of Rothamsted.

The exhibition is of huge panoramas and detailed botanical studies by Chrystel, reproductions from E J Salisbury’s glass plates made in the 1920s and early 1930s, and a collection of his manuscript notes, typescripts of talks and samples of his publications. It is spread through the many elegant rooms of the museum in two canal-side houses on the beautiful Kaizergracht in Amsterdam.

A magnificent catalogue, Field Studies: Walking through Landscape and Archives – The Sir Edward James Salisbury Archive Re-visited; observing environmental change in British landscape, has been published, available by enquiry through the Huis Marseille website, or by contacting info@huismarseille.nl or http://fw-books.nl/product/chrystel-lebas-field-studies.

Further links of great interest:

Observing Environmental Change: Chrystel Lebas and the Sir Edward James Salisbury Collection, Natural History Museum London http://tinyurl.com/k8vwoxp

NHM film recording interviews and fieldwork: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/looking-at-past-habitats-through-a-modern-lens.html

Plan of Marseille harbour – the original owner of this house was a French merchant who settled in Amsterdam in 1665

View along Kaizergracht, Amsterdam – the museum is indicated by the banner

Re-visiting Suæda fruticosa, Blakeney, Plate n°303, Blakeney, June 2014 52°58.546’N 1°0.015’E by Chrystel Lebas

E J Salisbury notebook – from Kew Library & Archive

E J Salisbury, autobiographical notes

Extract from typescript of talk to Hertfordshire Natural History Society, c.1924

Poster for the exhibition

Cover of catalogue –

Comments about this page

  • A small selection of Chrystel Lebas’ photos, set alongside prints from Edward Salisbury’s glass plates from the 1920s & 1930s, is on show at The Photographers’ Gallery, Ramillies Street, London W1F 7LW (close to Oxford Circus) until 5 August 2017. Revisiting scenes first captured by Edward Salisbury, Chrystel has produced stunning wide-angle, deep-focussed large prints. Well worth a visit, and a browse in the extensive catalogue, which is available for sale.

    By Rosemary Ross (30/06/2017)

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