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Sir William Turner Walton

© estate of Michael Ayrton / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir William Turner Walton

by Michael Ayrton
oil on canvas, 1948
24 1/8 in. x 36 in. (613 mm x 915 mm)
Purchased, 1977
Primary Collection
NPG 5138

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Michael Ayrton (1921-1975), Artist. Artist of 10 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The setting of the portrait is Capri, where Ayrton accompanied Walton when the composer was recuperating from jaundice. The following year Walton settled permanently on the neighbouring island of Ischia.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Audio Guide
  • Gibson, Robin; Clerk, Honor, 20th Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1993, p. 25 Read entry

    Walton's precocious musical genius was recognized by a succession of benefactors and well-wishers. A chorister and undergraduate at Christ Church, on leaving Oxford he was taken up by Sacheverell and Osbert Sitwell. The association broadened his cultural and social horizons and led to his collaboration with Edith Sitwell on Façade (1922). Owing various debts to popular music and jazz, to Elgar and romanticism, Prokofiev and Stravinsky, Walton's individual style ranged from the deep seriousness of his Viola Concerto (1928-9) and First Symphony (1932-5) to ceremonial for the coronations of both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II and the scores for 14 films.

    The two representations of Walton, separated by a period of more than twenty years, reflect general trends in the art and music of the time. The modernist head by Lambert, brother of the composer Constant Lambert, echoes, in its pure line, the svelt style of the 1920s, the time of Façade. By contrast Ayrton's painting is in the neo-Romantic style, a return to elegy and lyricism that also characterizes Walton's mature compositions. The portrait is set in Capri where Ayrton accompanied the composer during his convalescence from jaundice. The following year Walton settled permanently on the neighbouring island of Ischia.

  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 224
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 641

Placesback to top

  • Place made and portrayed: Italy (Capri, Naples, Italy)

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1948back to top

Current affairs

Prince Charles is born in Buckingham Palace; he is the first son of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh
The Secretary of State for Health, Aneurin Bevan, introduces the National Health Service. Health services in Britain were now funded from central taxation and free at the point of use for every resident of the country.

Art and science

The First Morris Minor car designed by Alec Issigonis and his team (also responsible for the Mini) takes to the road, becoming a popular and classic English design.
F.R. Leavis publishes his influential study of the English novel, The Great Tradition. The book set out Leavis's ideas on the proper relationship between literary form and moral concern.


The policy of Apartheid is adopted in South Africa. Apartheid was a set of laws allowing racial segregation and discrimination against the black majority by the white ruling class.
As part of the dispute between Western and Soviet controlled Berlin, the Soviet Union blockades West Berlin, cutting off supplies. Anxious to avoid a conflict, America, Britain and France responded by flying in food and other provisions.

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