by Meredith Frampton
oil on canvas, 1921
35 1/8 x 29 3/8 in. (892 x 746 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Winifred Radford (1901-1993), Singer and teacher of singing. Sitter in 28 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Meredith Frampton (1894-1984), Painter. Artist of 4 portraits, Sitter in 6 portraits.
This portraitback to top
The portrait was commissioned by her husband, Captain Douglas Illingworth, a friend of Frampton, and painted while she was still a student at the Royal College of Music.
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- Gibson, Robin, Painting The Century: 101 Portrait Masterpieces 1900-2000, 2000 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 26 October 2000 to 4 February 2001), p. 97 Read entry
Painter, born in London, son of sculptor Sir George Frampton; attended Royal Academy Schools from 1913; exhibited thirty-two paintings at the R.A. 1920-45; specialised in portraits but poor eye-sight caused him to give up painting after 1945.
1921 was one of those years when the Royal Academy of Arts in London periodically decided to bring itself up to date. As it was, the dropping of the usual run of ‘problem’ pictures by favourite artists such as the Hon. John Collier, the election to Associate of Augustus John and the inclusion of a painting by Henry Lamb were enough to secure headlines such as ‘An Artistic Revolution’ and ‘A New Spirit’. As one older exhibitor, Frank Salisbury, grumbled, many works by young artists (one of whom was only fifteen) were included at the expense of more mature ones. Amongst the exhibits was Meredith Frampton’s portrait of the young singer, Winifred Radford, commissioned by her husband.
In British terms, this portrait was of course ‘modern art’ in 1921. Its neo-classicising perfection and tonal modelling were a long way removed from the work of those older painters who were still working in the watered-down Impressionism of Sargent and his followers, or even of the Post-Impressionism of the painters associated with the Bloomsbury group. The primary influences at work here are clearly those of Italian quattrocento painters; this portrait would sit quite happily with the work of a number of Italian painters of the day who were connected to the Valori Plastici group. The return to early Renaissance values was to prove something of a dead end in Britain, and Frampton was left to pursue a lonely path, though his work in the 1930s and 1940s did occasionally lead to comparisons with Salvador Dalí. While the symbolism of a bird in a cage might suggest some sort of allegory for the subject’s singing career, the bird appears to be a lovebird and it is probably a mistake to read too much into its inclusion. What was new here was the serene simplicity and the totally arbitrary setting.
Winifred Radford (1901-92) was still a student when the portrait was painted, but became quite well known in the years before the Second World War. She sang in the first ever opera production at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1934 and toured with the Intimate Opera Company, including a season on Broadway. After the war, she formed a radio partnership with Constance Carrodus called ‘City and Countryside’. She went on to study with the great French singer Pierre Bernac and became a teacher and specialist in French song. She gave the first performance in Britain of some of Francis Poulenc’s songs, and translated his Diary of My Songs (1985) and related works by Bernac.
R. Morphet, Meredith Frampton, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1982, pp 34-5 (no.5).
- Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 214
- Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 221
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 510