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E.M. Forster; Benjamin Britten; Eric John Crozier

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E.M. Forster; Benjamin Britten; Eric John Crozier

by Kurt Hutton (Kurt Hubschman)
bromide print, 1950
7 5/8 in. x 5 5/8 in. (195 mm x 142 mm)
Given by the Britten estate, 1981
Photographs Collection
NPG x15223

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  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 257 Read entry

    In 1948 at the first Aldeburgh Festival Benjamin Britten heard E. M. Forster lecture in the Baptist Chapel there on the poet George Crabbe whose tale of Peter Grimes formed the basis of Britten's first opera (1945). In his talk Forster reflected on how he might have treated the libretto for the opera had it been his to write. This was not wasted on Britten, and when he was commissioned to write an opera for the Festival of Britain (1951), he turned to Forster. The novelist was then in his seventies, with virtually no dramatic experience. Together they decided to make an opera of Herman Melville's story Billy Budd, Foretopman and, in collaboration with the producer and experienced librettist Eric Crozier, they created one of the best (and most faithful) librettos ever to be based on a literary masterpiece. Britten's score itself is a work of great psychological subtlety, and when the opera was first performed at Covent Garden in December 1951, the drama of the 'handsome sailor' destroyed by evil was recognized as a work of tragic insight.

    Born Kurt Hubschmann in Strasbourg, the photographer emigrated to Britain in 1934, adopting the name 'Hutton' in 1937. As a photo-journalist he had worked under Felix H. Man in Berlin, and in London he was soon adopted by Weekly Illustrated and later by Picture Post. His secret lay in his sympathy with his subjects, and it is possible to feel in this photograph of the three men entirely absorbed in their project, all the excitements and frustrations of collective literary composition. It was taken at Britten's home, Crag House, overlooking the seafront at Aldeburgh, in the early part of 1950, when Forster's friendship with Britten was at its most excited. Later, relations were less easy, and Forster confided to his diary in December that year: 'I am rather a fierce old man at the moment, and he is rather a spoilt boy, and certainly a busy one'. This print is one of a group of 108 photographs of, and relating to, Benjamin Britten presented to the Gallery in 1981.

Events of 1950back to top

Current affairs

Princess Anne is born at Clarence house, the only daughter of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Art and science

C.S. Lewis publishes The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Lewis was an Oxford Don, specialising in Medieval Literature and its use of allegory. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is often seen as an allegory of the Christian struggle between good and evil.


Following the Soviet and American withdrawal from the occupation of North and South Korea respectively, the Korean War breaks out as each side seeks to unify Korea under its own political system. While the U.S.A., U.K and other UN nations came to the defence of South Korea, North Korea had support from the Soviet Union and China. The war continued until 1953.

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