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Harold Acton

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Harold Acton

by John Banting
carbon ink and pencil, circa 1930
12 1/2 in. x 9 1/2 in. (318 mm x 241 mm)
Purchased, 1994
Primary Collection
NPG 6255

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • John Banting (1902-1972), Painter. Artist associated with 7 portraits, Sitter in 3 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. 178 Read entry

    As a young man the historian and aesthete (Sir) Harold Acton (1904-1994) had been involved with the Sitwells over the production of The Eton Candle and was instrumental in Gertrude Stein's appearance at the Ordinary Society in Oxford in 1926. In Memoirs of an Aesthete (1948), he wrote affectionately of all the Sitwells: of Edith, who 'went out of her way to help over stiles lame dogs that turned and bit her'; of Sacheverell's style 'flowing like the Yangtze through ever-changing scenery'; and of Reinshaw, 'spacious and gracious like Osbert himself'. 'They were generous and hospitable to a fault, loyal friends, excessively sensitive but free from pettiness.'1

    Their paths crossed in London drawing-rooms in the twenties, in Peking in the thrities and in Italy after the Second World War when Acton settled permanently at his family home, La Pietra in Florence, almost a neighbour to the Sitwells at Montegufoni.

    Banting's Cocteau-like drawing was in the collection of John Sutro, the founder of the Railway Club of which Harold Acton was an enthusiastic member.

    1 H. Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948, pp 205-6.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 3

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1930back to top

Current affairs

Amy Johnson is the first woman to fly solo to Australia. She flew the 11,000 miles from Croydon to Darwin in a De Havilland Gipsy Moth named Jason and won the Harmon Trophy as well as a CBE for her achievement. She went on to break a number of other flying records, and died while serving in the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1941.

Art and science

Noel Coward's play, Private Lives is first performed. The original run starred Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier as well as Coward himself. Private Lives became Coward's most enduringly successful play.


Gandhi leads the Salt March. The march to the coast was a direct protest against the British monopoly on the sale of salt and inspired hordes of Indians to follow him and adopt his methods of Satyagraha (non-violent resistance to the British rule of India).
Stalin orders the 'liquidation of the kulaks (wealthy farmers) as a class' in a violent attempt to centralise control of agriculture and collectivise farming.

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