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Sir William Turner Walton

Photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir William Turner Walton

by Maurice Lambert
bronze head, circa 1925
10 7/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (275 mm x 150 mm) overall
Purchased, 1986
Primary Collection
NPG 5913

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Maurice Lambert (1901-1964), Sculptor. Artist of 5 portraits, Sitter in 28 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Walton met Maurice Lambert, the sculptor of this bust, through his connection with the Sitwell family. Its stylised features reflect their shared appreciation of modernist aesthetics.

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Clerk, Honor, The Sitwells, 1994 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 October - 22 January 1995), p. 90 Read entry

    The composer William Walton (1902-1983) won a place as a chorister at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1912, and by 1918 had been squeezed in as an undergraduate at the age of sixteen. Through his friendship at Oxford with Siegfried Sassoon (who continued to support him financially for many years), he had been introduced to Sacheverell, who used to take the young music student out to lunch. When it became clear that Walton must leave Oxford and be rescued from the prospect of continuing his studies at the Royal College of Music, Osbert and Sacheverell invited him to come and live with them in London. Together with the Dean of Christ Church, Dr Thomas Strong, Sassoon and Lord Berners, they guaranteed him an income of £250 a year and in June 1919 Walton arrived at Swan Walk. In November he moved with the brothers to Carlyle Square, ocucpying a room at the top of the house, and he remained with them for the next fourteen years.

    Walton's near-contemporary, Constant Lambert, became part of the entourage in 1923 and through him Walton would have met Constant's brother, the sculptor Maurice. Maurice's futuristic head of Walton was finished by the time of his first public exhibition and was one of fourteen of his works included in the mixed show at the Goupil Gallery in April 1925.

  • Cooper, John, Visitor's Guide, 2000, p. 117
  • Gibson, Robin; Clerk, Honor, 20th Century Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1993, p. 24 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.

  • John Cooper, National Portrait Gallery Visitor's Guide, 2006, p. 117
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 641

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1925back to top

Current affairs

On the advice of the Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman, Winston Churchill returns British currency to the Gold Standard. This caused deflation across the empire as the value of the pound returned to the pre-war gold price, leading to unemployment, the miners' strike and the general strike in 1926.

Art and science

John Logie Baird transmits the first television images of a ventriloquist's dummy. The BBC used Logie Baird's invention from 1927 until 1935 when they adopted EMI-Marconi's superior electronic scanning system.
Virginia Woolf publishes her innovative 'stream of consciousness' novel, Mrs Dalloway, which chronicles a day in the life of the protagonist through her interior monologue.


Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs represents Britain at the Locarno Treaties. Lorcano secured the post-war territorial settlement and established pledges of non-aggression between various European Nations. The 'spirit of Locarno' helped secure Germany's admission into the League of Nations in 1926. Chamberlain was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the peace agreement.

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