Museum collections

Milein Cosman Collection

The Royal College of Music Museum has acquired over 1,300 musical portraits by celebrated German artist Milein Cosman, many of which have never been publically viewed before.

The remarkable collection includes drawings of major composers and performers, many signed by the artist, and offers an unparalleled glimpse into the rich musical culture of 20th century Britain. The drawings were donated by Cosman herself and depict many RCM alumni, notably Benjamin Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Imogen Holst and Amaryllis Fleming.

Composers Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss and Leonard Bernstein; conductors Vladimir Ashkenazy and Simon Rattle; and performers András Schiff, Mstislav Rostropovich and André Tchaikowsky are also captured in the collection. There are over 50 drawings of Stravinsky, many of which were drawn at the BBC Studios in Maida Vale when the composer visited London in 1959.

Cosman sketched incredibly quickly, capturing the movement, mood and character of her subject. One musician will often be drawn in various poses one after another, building a ‘narrative’ which captures how the subject moved and gestured.

Generous financial support from the Pilgrim Trust has enabled digitisation of the collection, aiding a programme of further documentation, research and dissemination.

The full list of subjects catalogued so far is as follows:

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
R
S
T
V
W
Z
Milein Cosman also drew a number of musicians ‘not from life’:
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