Sir Keith Falkner (1900–1994) studied singing at the RCM between 1920 and 1926, performing in the premiere of Vaughan Williams’s "Hugh the Drover" in the College’s Parry Theatre in 1924. He maintained a career as a distinguished oratorio soloist, particularly noted for his interpretations of Bach. After the Second World War, he became the British Council’s music officer for Italy, promoting English music for performance there, and giving concerts himself. He moved to America in 1950 to work as a singing professor at Cornell University, and returned to London in 1960 to take up the job of Director of the Royal College of Music, a post that he held until 1974. Falkner worked tirelessly to develop and expand the College, and was responsible for overseeing the construction of the South Building, the establishment of an Electronic Studio, and the creation of a Museum of Instruments and Department of Portraits. He also set up an exchange programme with Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, building the College’s international reputation as a place of study.
Leonard Boden (1911–99) was one of the most notable British portrait artists of the twentieth century. He trained at the Glasgow School of Art, subsequently moving to London where he worked as an illustrator of books and magazines. From the mid-1940s, he gained a reputation for his portraits of famous actors and musicians, including Alastair Sim, Boris Christoff and Tito Gobbi. This portrait of Falkner was unveiled by the Queen Mother in 1974, at the same time as the unveiling of another portrait by Boden of Falkner’s close friend, Herbert Howells.