Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dr. Jan Marsh discusses images of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor on display at National Portrait Gallery

[Samuel Coleridge Taylor's portrait was painted when he was about 7. Emil Hoppe photographed the composer in 1912, shortly before his death.]

Dr. Jan Marsh is on the staff of the National Portrait Gallery of the United Kingdom. Her blog describes her as “Writer and Curator author of biography and art history.”

Jan Marsh
Tuesday, 17 July 2012

COMPOSER Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia 100 years ago this summer – 1912 was apparently very wet and cold too. He was only 37 and although already a musical celebrity it was probably too early for a formal portrait so this small, gravely observed head study is the only painting of him. When he was about seven, he was asked to pose for a group of artists in Croydon, where he lived. He must have impressed them with his self-possession. He seems to have been one whose talents drove achievement without egotism; despite his very modest background he appears never to have doubted his life's work.

Right at the other end of his life, just a few weeks before his death, he sat to the rising photographer Emil Hoppe, who this year created striking portraits of many figures in the arts world who were making names for themselves, including Marinetti, the visiting Futurist and poseur, and Karsavina, star of the Ballets Russes. Coleridge-Taylor was still pushing forward, with a completed but as yet unstaged opera, and an orchestral work due for performance at the Proms (then held in the autumn). With Hello Ragtime and Stravinsky both on the stage, and Post-Impressionists and Fauvistes in the galleries, it was a moment of extraordinary cultural dynamism to which had he lived Coleridge-Taylor would have made a unique contribution. African themes and Gospel music were among his inspirations.

Both these works feature in a display at the NPG [Room 29] to mark the centenary. Other items include a newspaper double-spread featuring contemporary musical generations - the elders including Stanford, Parry and Elgar, the youngsters including Coleridge-Taylor and Ethel Smyth – though not Vaughan Williams or Gustav Holst, both fellow students of Coleridge-Taylor at the RCM, but who had yet to become known.

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, We are collaborating with the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation of the U.K.,]

No comments: