Ralph Vaughan Williams


Object number
Commission from Kelly, Gerald Festus — 1953


One of the towering figures in British music in the first half of the twentieth century, Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958) was both a student at the RCM (for three years in the 1890s, studying with Stanford) and later Professor (1920–42). His path to a distinctive and compelling voice was arduous, and it was only in his late thirties that the first masterpieces began to appear. However he continued to evolve as a composer throughout his career, as the last two of his nine symphonies testify.

Sir Gerald Kelly (1879–1972), essentially self-taught, specialised in portraits and landscapes. In his early years he lived and studied modern paintings in Paris (exhibiting at the Salon d'Automne in 1904) and was also influenced by Whistler. In 1907 he was a founder-member of the Modern Portrait Painters Society and in 1922 was made an Associate of the Royal Academy, eventually rising to be its President in 1949–1954. A friend of Somerset Maugham, he provided the basis for characters in some of the latter’s novels.