(Meredith Frampton, Winifred Radford, 1921, oil on canvas; National Portrait Gallery)
I was looking for some portraits to use in one of my English classes, and came across this one in the National Portrait Gallery. And I like it very much, so I thought I would share it with you. It seems that Winifred Radford (1901–93) was a very well-known singer before the Second World War and sang at the first ever Glyndbourne Festival. Subsequently, she became a specialist in French mélodie, performing the British premieres of some of Poulenc’s songs. She also taught singing at the Guildhall for sixteen years. You can read more about her life in this obituary from the Independent.
The artist Meredith Frampton (1894–1984) was the son of a sculptor. (And Radford was the daughter of a singer, Robert Radford.) He was a realist painter, who numbered George VI among his subjects. Apparently his reputation was resuscitated by a retrospective of his work at the Tate Gallery in 1982, but I don’t think that he any more than Radford is well known to most people now.
The picture was commissioned by Radford’s husband, Captain Douglas Illingworth, who was a friend of Frampton’s. Apparently he was very supportive of Radford’s career, but died in 1949. Here is a photograph of Illingworth and Radford on their wedding day in 1920, also from the National Portrait Gallery:
The portrait of Radford was painted after about a year of marriage and you can see that she still looks very young, girlish and fragile. The bird in the cage is an obvious and sad metaphor since the door appears to be closed, and the landscape behind her, a lake and mountains, is bleak and emphasises her delicateness. But Radford doesn’t look sad at all: to me she seems resolute and with a certain clarity about her. It’s a portrait which strikes me as full of hope.
And here is a final picture of Winifred Radford, a photograph from 1982 by Brian Harris for The Times, now held by the NPG. You can see her in the foreground, with her portrait in the background, and leaning on his cane is Meredith Frampton. They are at the retrospective at the Tate Gallery. It’s a nice circle.