Sir Arthur Bliss (1891–1975) studied at both the University of Cambridge and Royal College of Music, before embarking on a highly successful career as a conductor and composer. A great admirer of Sir Edward Elgar, and a keen writer of theatrical music, his varied output includes a number of film scores, incidental music, several large-scale choral and orchestral pieces, and an opera for television entitled Tobias and the Angel. He was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953, and was responsible for composing music for the investiture of the Prince of Wales – now the RCM’s president – in 1969.
In 1964, Lucy Lyons (née Hurst, 1916–2001) was commissioned to produce four busts for the new extension to the Royal College of Music: of Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Benjamin Britten, to sit in the four rooms bearing their names. In the event, only Bliss’s portrait was produced. On meeting Sir Arthur, Lyons was so struck by his hands that she increased the size of the sculpture so that she was able to include them. A successful artist, Lyons went on to produce sculptures of several major figures, including the Chief Rabbi, Sir Israel Brodie; and the gymnast Olga Korbut, following her successes in the 1972 and 1974 Olympic Games.