10 of 117 portraits of 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
Click on the links below to find out more:
Sitterback to top
- (Edward) Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten (1913-1976), Composer. Sitter in 117 portraits, Artist of 5 portraits.
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.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Gibson, Robin, The Face in the Corner: Animal Portraits from the Collections of the National Portrait Gallery, 1998, p. 86
- Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 122
Events of 1954back to top
Current affairsRoger 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 scienceJ.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.
InternationalThe 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.
Exhibitions and displays
- Photographic holdings - print collections
- Only Connect - Benjamin Britten <> Imogen Holst
- Only Connect - Benjamin Britten <> Eric Fenby
- Only Connect - Benjamin Britten <> Yehudi Menuhin
- Only Connect - Yehudi Menuhin <> Benjamin Britten
- Only Connect
- Only Connect - installation video
- Yousuf Karsh
- The Face of Monarchy
- Yousuf Karsh
- In Close Up: Laurence Olivier
- The Royal Ballet at 75