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Sir William Turner Walton

2 of 1105 portraits by Cecil Beaton

Sir William Turner Walton, by Cecil Beaton, 1926 - NPG P55 - © Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby's London

© Cecil Beaton Studio Archive, Sotheby's London

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Sir William Turner Walton

by Cecil Beaton
bromide print, 1926
11 3/8 in. x 9 3/8 in. (289 mm x 238 mm)
Purchased, 1978
Primary Collection
NPG P55

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Cecil Beaton (1904-1980), Photographer, designer and writer. Artist associated with 1105 portraits, Sitter associated with 357 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This photograph was taken the year Walton's overture Portsmouth Point was premiered in Zürich to great acclaim. In this portrait, the cubist design of Beaton's hand-painted background refers to Walton's reputation as a modernist.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 76 Read entry

    Beaton's first photographs of Walton, and indeed of Osbert Sitwell, are dated to 1926 when he was using the 'Cubist' background that he had painted himself and used for other photographs. The essence of photographic 'Modernism', they clearly reflect the popular success of the performances of Façade at the New Chenil Galleries that year. Both photographs were included in Beaton's first exhibition at the Cooling Galleries the following year. A variant image including Walton's hands is also known. Beaton's inscription on the reverse indicates that he was still using this photograph as a press print in 1928, the year in which Façade was performed at the Siena Festival.

  • Pepper, Terence, Beaton Portraits, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 February - 31 May 2004), p. 28 Read entry

    Despite these homages to his contemporaries, Beaton’s contributions remained totally innovatory and unique. These included his hand-painted cubist sets that he constructed out of card for pictures such as his dramatic back view of Margot Asquith (x40318), and his depiction of the modernist talent of William Walton (P55).

  • Pepper, Terence, Beaton Portraits, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 February to 31 May 2004), p. 28
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 199 Read entry

    In 1919, while still an undergraduate at Oxford, the composer Walton, a tall, shy boy from Oldham, was taken up by the aesthetes Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell, who persuaded him to forsake academia, and to pursue the natural bent of his genius: 'If it hadn't been for them, I'd either have ended up like Stanford [the composer, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford], or would have been a clerk in some Midland bank with an interest in music'. He shared his life with them and their poetic sister Edith for the next fourteen years. In 1923 came the first public performance of Façade, his witty and satirical setting of Edith's avant-garde poems, written in metres echoing the rhythms of waltzes, polkas and foxtrots. It caused a furore, and from that time Walton was an enfant terrible.

    The ambitious young photographer Cecil Beaton attended a later performance of Façade at the Chenil Galleries in April 1926, but 'felt too restless to settle down. ... There were too many distractions - arty people moving about and arty people in the outer room talking loud'. Nevertheless, sensing an opportunity, he photographed the young composer at about this time, and included his portrait in his first one-man show (1927). In the introduction to the catalogue Osbert Sitwell praised Beaton as 'a photographic pioneer', adding, 'if the race of mortals were to perish from this earth, and nothing remain of the wreck except a few of Mr. Cecil Beaton's photographs, there is no doubt that those who succeed us would pronounce this past set as one of extraordinary beauty'. With his usual assured sense of design, Beaton sets Walton's angular profile against a 'Cubist' background which the photographer had himself painted, and which he used, with improvised adaptations, in other photographs of this period.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 641

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1926back to top

Current affairs

In response to wage cuts and increased working hours for coal miners recommended by the Samuel Commission, the Trade Union Council calls a General Strike of workers in the key industries. Although over 1.5 million workers took part, the TUC finally gave in after nine days and called off the strike. The Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act of 1927 made it harder for workers to strike.

Art and science

A.A. Milne publishes Winnie-the-Pooh. The series of popular children's books featured the character Christopher Robin (named after Milne's son) and a cast of animals based on his stuffed-toys including Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Tigger, Kanga and Roo.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is published. This was Agatha Christie's first 'whodunnit' story featuring Hecule Poirot, the Belgium Detective.

International

The League of Nations accepts Germany as the sixth permanent member on the council deeming it a 'peace-loving country'. This confidence, however, was short lived with Germany leaving the League with the accession of Adolf Hitler to power in 1933.

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