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Benjamin Britten

10 of 117 portraits of Benjamin Britten

Benjamin Britten, by Yousuf Karsh, 1954 - NPG P490(14) - © Karsh / Camera Press

© Karsh / Camera Press

Benjamin Britten

by Yousuf Karsh
bromide print, 1954
13 3/8 in. x 10 5/8 in. (339 mm x 269 mm)
Given by the photographer, Yousuf Karsh, 1991
Primary Collection
NPG P490(14)


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Artistback to top

  • Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), Photographer. Artist associated with 155 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

The work of Britain's most renowned composer of the post-War era ranges from opera, such as Peter Grimes (1945) and Billy Budd (1951) to song-cycles, the War Requiem (1961) and the popular Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946). He was also the founder, in 1948, of the Aldeburgh Festival. In this photograph Britten is shown holding a dachshund and looking towards the score from his opera Gloriana (1953) which was written for the coronation of Elizabeth II. According to Karsh 'the dog demanded to become part of the picture. Britten swivelled on the piano seat to make room for his canine collaborator, who leaped into the safety of his arms, while yet casting a wary eye on me'. The dog is thought to be Clytie who was named after Clytie Mundy, the American singing teacher of Britten's companion, Peter Pears.

Events of 1954back to top

Current affairs

Roger Bannister runs the four-minute mile. Bannister was the first man to achieve the 'miracle mile', a feat that was thought by some to be impossible, beating his rival, the Australian John Landy, to the record. Bannister went on to a career as a distinguished neurologist. Food rationing ends in Britain.

Art and science

J.R.R. Tolkien publishes the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Tolkien was an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon language and literature and drew on his scholarly interests in history, language and mythology to create the fictional land of Middle Earth where the books are set. Williams Golding publishes, Lord of the Flies.

International

The South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) is established in Bangkok. This international defence organisation was established as part of the 'containment' policy of limiting the influence of communism. SEATO was, however, found to be ineffective as the member organisations failed to agree on combined action; it was disbanded in 1977.

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