The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners

© National Portrait Gallery, London

1 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Buy a print Make a donation Close
  • Buy a print
  • Use this image
  • ShareShare this

Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners

by Rex Whistler
oil on artist board, 1929
15 7/8 in. x 13 in. (402 mm x 329 mm)
Purchased, 1975
Primary Collection
NPG 5050

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

A painter of landscapes in particular, he is shown by Whistler at work on a canvas in his house at 3, The Forum, Rome.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 109 Read entry

    Osbert probably met Gerald Berners (1883-1950) towards the end of the First World War on one of his visits to Robert Ross in his rooms at Miss Burton's establishment in Half Moon Street where Berners was also a tenant.1 The eccentric aristocrat, composer, writer and painter with his independence of spirit, disregard for convention and total dedication to the arts, became to a certain extent a role model for Osbert. He quickly established a close friendship with all three Sitwells, entertaining each other at Carlyle Square and at Berners's house in Halkin Street (where in mocking emulation of Osbert he had placed a huge bowl with one solitary press cutting in the entrance hall). They met on holidays abroad in Austria, Italy and Greece; at house parties at Sir Philip Sassoon's house, Port Lympne: and naturally at Renishaw, Weston and Berners's house, Faringdon.

    It was Sachevcrell, however, with his passion for music, who formed the closest ties with Berners, and collaborated with him on the Diaghilev ballet, The Triumph of Neptune, in 1926. In 1931 Sacheverell dedicated Spanish Baroque Art to Berners, and following one of the regular financial crises that beset Sacheverell and Georgia during this period they accepted Berners's invitation to go and live with him at Faringdon, taking Nannah and their first child Reresby with them. 2 The following February, when they all moved up to Berners’s London house, William Walton joined them to make a foursome in the increasingly glittering social circles in which they were now moving.3 In 1937 Georgia quarreled with Berners over his disloyalty to Emerald Cunard during the abdication crisis4 but the quarrel had been patched up by the outbreak of the war and visits to Weston were renewed.5

    Rex Whistler had been offered an honorary scholarship to the British School in Rome in 1928, and that summer, with an introduction to Lord Berners (who had a house at 3 The Forum), found himself being chauffered around Castel Gandolfo and Lake Albano in Berners's famous Rolls.6 The following year, six weeks after his return from Bavaria, Whistler returned to Rome as Berners’s guest for five weeks and produced a number of paintings, including this portrait of his host. 'Alas, only too like him! And so it cannot give much pleasure.

    He is so charming and kind', Whistler wrote home to his friend Edith Olivier.7 Indeed the painting remained unsold until offered to the National Portrait Gallery by Laurence Whistler in 1975. On the back of the board is inscribed in the artist's hand Lord Berners, started afternoon July 12th 1929/13th/Finished 14th, showing the speed with which Whistler painted his apparently finely detailed works. Another painting of the same room at 3 The Forum (with a self-portrait of the artist at the easel and Berners seen on the balcony beyond) is at Faringdon.

    1 Osbert Sitwell, Laughter in the Next Room, 1949, p 28.

    2 Sarah Bradford, Sacheverell Sitwell, Splendours and Miseries, 1993, p 226.

    3 Ibid., p 233.

    4 Ibid., p 263.

    5 Ibid., p 287.

    6 L. Whistler, The Laughter and the Urn, 1985, p 121.

    7 Ibid., p 146.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 53

Placesback to top

  • Place portrayed: Italy (sitter's home, The Forum, Rome)

Events of 1929back to top

Current affairs

The first election held under universal suffrage is a victory for Labour. Ramsay Macdonald returned for his second term as Prime Minster, and appointed Margaret Grace Bondfield as the first woman Cabinet Minister.

Art and science

Two classic books about the First World War are published: All Quiet on the Western Front, by war veteran, Erich Maria Remarque, tells of the horrors of war and the returning German soldiers' feelings of detachment from civilian life; while Robert Grave's autobiography Goodbye to All That, aimed to describe the author's experiences of the war so that they 'need never be thought about again'.

International

The 24th October 1929 becomes known as Black Thursday when the US Stock Exchange Collapses and millions are lost. The event was the start of the Wall Street Crash, which in turn contributed towards the Great Depression: a major international recession that lasted through most of the 1930s.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license this image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.

Citationclose

How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.

Discover

Scientific techniques

Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.

Watch now

Subjects and themes

Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!

Discover the Collection


Black History Month

Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.

Take the tour

A Picture of Health

Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.

Explore the timeline