Museum PR Announcements News and Information

National Portrait Gallery displays Photographs of Benjamin Britten

The National Portrait Gallery in London presents Photographs of Benjamin Britten in an exhibition on view until 30 June 2014, including family and personal snapshots from his boyhood and professional life, are included from today in a new display at the National Portrait Gallery, ahead of the composer’s centenary this weekend.

Spanning all sixty-three years of his life, it starts with a rarely-seen photograph of the composer at one year old and ends with the Gallery’s newly-acquired 1984 portrait of his partner Sir Peter Pears, pictured in the Drawing Room of the Red House, Aldeburgh, Suffolk. The singer is shown next to the portrait of Britten painted by Henry Lamb in 1943 and which Pears purchased shortly after the composer’s death.

The earliest portrait in the display shows Britten with his nanny Annie Walker, taken for a family Christmas card. At three months old Britten developed pneumonia and was not expected to live, but by the time the photo was taken in 1914 and around his first birthday, he’d made a full recovery and received no further treatment from his family.

Showcasing the breadth of his extraordinary achievement right up to his death on 4 December 1976 Benjamin Britten: A Life in Pictures includes many given by the Britten Estate in 1981 that have not been previously shown at the Gallery, and unseen portrait studies of his closest friends and musical collaborators selected from the Gallery’s reference collection of photographs.