Elisabeth Welch

This chalk drawing of Elisabeth Welch has recently been acquired by the Gallery and is on display for the first time during Black Chronicles in Room 31.

Born in New York, Elisabeth Welch (1904 – 2003) made her Broadway debut in 1922 but left America to work in Paris in 1929. There she met Cole Porter who invited her to appear in his musical Nymph Errant (1933) in London. Welch settled in England, becoming one of the great stars of the stage musical and further endearing herself to British audiences in the BBC Radio series Soft Lights and Sweet Music during the 1930s. Welch also appeared in numerous films including Around the Town (1938), Over the Moon (1937), This was Paris(1942) and Fiddlers Three (1944). In her final screen appearance, dressed in gold, she delivered the torch song ‘Stormy Weather’ in Derek Jarman’s adaptation of The Tempest (1979).

Welch recalled the sitting with the celebrated artist of this portrait ‘I was appearing in Ivor Novello’s Glamorous Night ... Gerald Brockhurst saw me as the stowaway, and he said “I want that look”.’

The Gallery featured a display in 2009 called Elisabeth Welch: Soft Lights and Sweet Music curated by Stephen Bourne. Following this, the Gallery acquired 20 vintage prints of Welch from Stephen Bourne for the Collection.

Elisabeth Welch
by Gerald Leslie Brockhurst
1935 © National Portrait Gallery
NPG 7004