Only Connect

From 16 April to 27 November 2011

Room 33
Admission free

Only Connect is an unconventional new display at the National Portrait Gallery presenting a web of portraits connecting sitters across three centuries. Comprising paintings, sculpture, photographs, engravings, drawings, miniatures and works in other media from the National Portrait Gallery’s holdings, the display uses musical connections to explore new ways of looking at the Collection.

The display proposes a network of threads connecting singers, composers, artists, doctors, sculptors, poets, engineers, ambassadors and many others. As a result, everyone in the display is linked in one way or another. The connections range from the profound and the personal to the accidental and the incidental. Some were friends and some were lovers, several wrote about each other or had similar ideas, others were enemies or simply met on the street. For example, composer Benjamin Britten and violinist and conductor, Yehudi Menuhin performed at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after liberation in 1945. Yehudi Menuhin gave ground-breaking performances of composer Michael Tippett’s Corelli Fantasia. The sets and costumes for Tippett’s opera Midsummer Marriage were designed by sculptor Barbara Hepworth. An alternative route is formed by writer George Bernard Shaw who corresponded with the pianist Harriet Cohen. She premiered Elgar’s Piano Quintet and Elgar made his most famous recording of his Violin Concerto with the teenaged Yehudi Menuhin.  Such links evoke an invisible layer of human interconnectedness, a ‘six degrees of separation’ through the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

The choice of pictures reflects a ‘reading’ of the National Portrait Gallery Collection in the light of interaction and connectedness. Any sense of hierarchy, whether between creative or interpretative artists, musicians or great engineers has been avoided. This is reflected in the choice of works in the display, which purposefully presents mass-produced material such as engravings alongside masterworks. The title of the display, Only Connect, is taken from E M Forster’s novel, Howard’s End, which is concerned with the difficulties, troubles and benefits of relationships between members of different social classes. The display, Only Connect, presents one possible reading: it is open to the viewer to make other connections.

The display has been devised by Peter Sheppard Skærved in collaboration with Paul Moorhouse, 20th Century Curator at the National Portrait Gallery. Peter Sheppard Skærved is the dedicatee of over 200 works for solo violin, and has appeared as soloist in over thirty countries. One of very few people to perform on Paganini’s violin, il Cannone, Peter regularly performs in, and works with, museums worldwide.

Paul Moorhouse, 20th Century Curator says: ‘People rarely exist in isolation but are connected with each other. Only Connect offers a new way of looking at portraits by focusing on the connections – in this case musical connections – that link all the individuals featured in the display. It may look unusual at first, but we hope our visitors will enjoy this alternative way of thinking about portraiture.’


There will be a series of musical performances in response to the display:

  • 13 May 2011 The Kreutzer Quartet respond to connections between Beethoven, Tippett and T.S. Eliot
  • 3 June 2011 Peter Sheppard Skærved (Violin) and Julian Perkins (Harpsichord) perform works by Maria Cosway, Tartini, Corelli and Judith Bingham
  • 1 July 2011  Peter Sheppard Skærved (Violin) and Aaron Shorr (Piano) play works by Bartok, Stravinsky, and Haflidi Hallgrimsson
  • 9 September 2011 Peter Sheppard Skærved (Violin), performing pieces by Paganini, Joachim, and Michael Alec Ros
  • 30 September 2011 Peter Sheppard Skærved (Violin) with students from the Royal Academy of Music, London, perform pieces by Mendelssohn, Britten and David Gorton

There will be two free tours of the display with Peter Sheppard Skærved in Room 33 on Tuesday 3 May 2011 at 15.00 and Thursday 19 May 2011 at 19.30. Further events will be announced shortly.

For further information on these events please visit


List of works on display:

  • (Edward) Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten by Sarah Fanny Hockey circa 1920 (5137)
  • (Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Martin Collection by; after Friedrich Theodor Müller;Friedrich Wilhelm Schmidt early 19th century (D13753)
  • A Bravura at the Hanover Square Concert (James Cervetto; Luigi Marchesini) by John Nixon 1789 (5179)
  • Angelica Catalani Opera singers and others: drawings by Alfred Edward Chalon, circa 1804-36  by Alfred Edward Chalon 1814 (1962(a))
  • Charles Burney by George Dance 1794  (1140)
  • Charles Mathews Caricatures by Sir Edwin Landseer, circa 1825-35 by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer circa 1830 (3097(2))
  • Dame Barbara Hepworth by Dame Barbara Hepworth, 1950 (5919)
  • Dame Rebecca West (Cicily Isabel Andrews (née Fairfield)) by (Percy) Wyndham Lewis 1932 (5693)
  • David Garrick by Thomas Gainsborough, 1770 (5054)
  • Emma, Lady Hamilton by Richard Cosway circa 1801 (2941)
  • Eric William Fenby; Yehudi Menuhin, Baron Menuhin by Unknown photographer 1970s (x27595)
  • Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy by; after Conrad Cook; Leighton mid 19th century (D5248)
  • Frances d'Arblay ('Fanny Burney') by Edward Francisco Burney circa 1784-1785 (2634)
  • Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton by George Frederic Watts 1881 (1049)
  • George Bernard Shaw by Sir (John) Bernard Partridge circa 1925 (4228)
  • Group including Frederick Delius and Philip Arnold Heseltine Rehearsals for 'A Mass of Life' at the Queen's Hall, 1929 (NPG 6108): drawings by Ernest Procter by Ernest Procter 1929 (4975(8))
  • Gustav Theodore Holst by Millicent Woodforde 1910 (4273)
  • Harriet Cohen by Clara Klinghoffer 1925 (5736)
  • Herbert George Wells by Gisèle Freund 1939 (P438)
  • Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson by Franz Thaller and Matthias Ranson (2767)
  • Imogen Clare Holst by Milein Cosman 1981 (D18547)
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel by John Callcott Horsley (979)
  • James Henry Leigh Hunt by Thomas Charles Wageman 1815 (4505)
  • Jelly D'Aranyi by Charles Geoffroy-Dechaume 1920s?  (5735)
  • Joseph Haydn MacDonnell Collectionby; after William Daniell; George Dance published 1 July 1809 (20 March 1794) (D35630)
  • Joseph Joachim Vanity Fair Cartoons: drawings by various artists, 1869-1910 by Sir Leslie Ward published in Vanity Fair 5 January 1905 (4930)
  • Karl Friedrich Abel by Thomas Gainsborough circa 1765 (5081)
  • Lucia Elizabeth Vestris (née Bartolozzi, later Mathews) by Samuel Lover circa 1826 (2786)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven by; after Lazarus Gottlieb Sichling; Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1823) (D13759)
  • Maria Cosway Martin Collection by; after Julien Fatou; Richard Cosway after 1785 (D13727)
  • Nicolo Paganini by Richard James Lane published 1831  (D5451)
  • Priaulx Rainier by George Newson 18 October 1984( x33552)
  • Richard Cosway after Richard Cosway (circa 1790) (1678)
  • Samuel Cartwright by Benedetto Pistrucci (1049)
  • Samuel Dushkin; Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky by Paul Tanqueray 1934 (x25925)
  • Sir Edward Elgar, Bt by Sir William Rothenstein 1917  (3868)
  • Sir Edwin Henry Landseer by Sir Francis Grant circa 1852 (1018)
  • Sir Michael Kemp Tippett by Martin Rose 1989 (6043)
  • Thomas Jefferson probably by; after William Holl Sr; Bouch 19th century (D13763)
  • Thomas Stearns ('T.S.') Eliot by Patrick Heron 1949  (4467)
  • William Hamilton Tracings by William Daniell, circa 1802-14, of drawings by George Dance by; after William Daniell; George Dance circa 1802-1814 (1793) (3089(7))

For further press information and image requests please contact: Eleanor Macnair, Press Office, National Portrait Gallery Tel: 020 7321 6620 (not for publication) Email:

To download images:

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