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Roy Campbell

© The Jane Bown Literary Estate / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Roy Campbell

by Jane Bown
bromide print, 1951
10 in. x 8 in. (255 mm x 201 mm)
Given by Jane Bown and The Observer, 1981
Primary Collection
NPG P378

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Jane Bown (1925-2014), Photographer. Artist associated with 73 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 156 Read entry

    In the unlikely person of 'noisy, frothing little Mr Roy Campbell’1 as she called him in 1931), Edith found a champion willing to take on her battles in print and in person. In return she eulogised Campbell (1901-1957) in her autobiography, cancelling out aspects of his character that other people had found unacceptable in the South African-born poet: 'He has been accused of being a fascist. He was never a fascist.'2 Campbell was a supporter of Wyndham Lewis, fought for Franco in the Spanish Civil War and remained a belligerent, controversial figure throughout his life. Both he and his wife Mary were Catholics and through them Edith met the Jesuit priest, Father Martin D'Arcy, to whom she disclosed her wish to be received into the faith. The Campbells were godparents to Edith but were unable to attend her reception as Roy was ill.

    Jane Bown's photograph was taken the year that Campbell's second volume of autobiography, Light on a Dark Horse, was published. The news that he had been killed, six years later, in a car accident in Portugal, was brutally delivered to Edith by a journalist during a press conference in Boston. It was a devastating blow, but at the end of her own life she saw the manner in which Campbell had died as in some way appropriate: 'he, who was all energy, all lire, would have hated to die slowly and helplessly, in bed. He died, as lie had lived, like a flash of lightning.'2

    1 Edith Sitwell, Taken Care Of, an autobiography, 1965, p 164.

    2 Ibid., p 166.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 99

Events of 1951back to top

Current affairs

The Conservative Party wins the general election and Winston Churchill returns for a second term as prime minister.

Art and science

On the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Festival of Britain is held as a nationwide celebration of British culture, and as an impetus for post-war regeneration. As well as various art, science and industrial exhibitions and events, a major regeneration project was initiated for the South Bank area of London under the directorship of the architect, Hugh Casson.


Libya declares its sovereignty from Italian rule, becoming the first independent state to be created by the UN.
At the Treaty of San Francisco, 48 nations sign a peace treaty with Japan, officially ending the Pacific War - the last battleground of the Second World War.

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