Musical Portraits in Bohemian London

Musical portaits in bohemian London exhibition at the RCM Museum
Experience the spirit of bohemia with the Royal College of Music Museum’s new temporary exhibition, Musical Portraits in Bohemian London (1870-1930), and discover a world where art and music collided.

Kensington, London, was once home to a lively social circle of famous artists and musicians. Through their friendships they inspired each other in new, creative ways.

Artists such as Edward Burne-Jones and John Singer Sargent painted portraits and designed posters of musicians including Jan Paderewski and George Henschel. Equally, composers who were exposed to the Pre-Raphaelite movement were inspired to write new music and many performed in artists’ studios.

The Royal College of Music was at the heart of this vibrant community. RCM professors and students drew upon their artistic connections and several prominent artists enrolled their children as budding instrumentalists.

This temporary exhibition has now closed.

Design for a Magpie Madrigal Society Invitation

Founded in 1866, the Magpie Madrigal Society was a group of amateur vocalists who had many important connections with the Royal College of Music. Every year they used their social connections in the art world to commission invitations for their annual concert. Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones lent his services to the Society to produce this beautiful design for a concert invitation. 

Drawings of Richard Wagner

Henry Holiday, a member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, was an avid concert-goer. He was particularly devoted to the music of Richard Wagner, and managed to gain access to rehearsals for the Wagner Festival at the Royal Albert Hall in 1877. There he sketched the composer from life as he prepared for the evening’s performances.

Portraits of the Henschel family

The artist John Singer Sargent enthusiastically attended concerts in London given by musician George Henschel. Sargent painted Henschel’s portrait in 1889, and later gifted the singer touching drawings of his family, including his wife, the singer Amy Henschel.

Paintings and sketches

A gifted artist, and daughter of the first who exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, Edith Hipkins received mentorship and praise from family friends including Pre-Raphaelite painters John Everett Millais and Edward Burne-Jones.

Exhibition dates

This exhibition was open 5 October 2021–9 January 2022.

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