Although best remembered today for his operetta collaborations with W.S. Gilbert, Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842–1900) was a composer of a orchestral works, operas and choral pieces, and a talented pianist. Following study at the Royal Academy of Music with William Sterndale Bennett and John Goss, he also spent a term at the Leipzig Conservatoire under the supervision of Moscheles. On returning to London in 1861, he met Sir George Grove, who was so impressed with his recent incidental music to "The Tempest" that he arranged for it to be performed at the Crystal Palace under the direction of August Manns. The performance established Sullivan’s career as a highly talented and sought-after composer, and was the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship with Grove.
In 1871, Sullivan embarked upon his first collaborative project with Gilbert, and in 1875 they had their first major success with "Trial by Jury", joining forces with Richard d’Oyly Carte two years later. In addition to these enormously popular works, Sullivan also conducted the Leeds Festival from 1880-1899, and was appointed the principal of the newly-formed National Training School for Music in 1876 (the institution that later became the Royal College of Music). Sullivan was also close friends with the Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir John Everrett Millais (1829–1900), who painted a substantial portrait of the composer in 1888. A greatly-admired and sometimes controversial painter, Millais was highly sought after as a portraitist, and his other subjects included Wilkie Collins, Thomas Carlyle and Benjamin Disraeli. His original portrait of Sullivan was bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery by Sullivan in 1902; this copy by Lynch was given to the College in the same year.