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The country is taking tentative steps in coming out of lockdown but with social distancing still in place, many of the freedoms we used to take for granted are still restricted. Art and culture have helped to keep us all sane over the past year.

Inspired by the current Government guidance we have delved into our collections to put together this curation on the theme of hands, face, space and fresh air. And of course, music, because it helps to console and inspire us, especially in times of adversity and anxiety.

The Royal Academy of Music trains the next generation of musicians and our Museum looks after a varied and sometimes surprising collection of art as well as musical instruments and other objects.

5 artworks


The Hands of Eileen Joyce
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

HANDS: The Hands of Eileen Joyce

Juliet Pannett MBE, FRSA, was a British portrait painter and many of her works are held in the National Portrait Gallery. Early in her career she worked for the Illustrated London News, and from her seat in the House of Commons she sketched many famous politicians. Among her sitters were musicians and ballet dancers, often in action, and members of the Royal Family. We are lucky to have 22 drawings by Pannett in our collection.

This charcoal sketch of the Hands of Eileen Joyce captures the agility, finesse and power of the pianist. Born in Australia, Joyce is remembered for her virtuosic performances but also because she associated different colours with various composers and chose her gowns to suit, endearing her to audiences worldwide.

The Hands of Eileen Joyce
Juliet Kathleen Pannett (1911–2005)
Black charcoal on cream paper
H 18.5 x W 24 cm
Royal Academy of Music


Maria Malibran (1808–1836)
Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

FACE: Maria Malibran

This portrait of the famous opera singer was rediscovered in 1932, 20 years after the Royal Academy of Music moved to its current building on Marylebone Rd. The sister of Manuel Garcia Jr, inventor of the laryngoscope, she was a legendary figure in 19th-century opera because of her extraordinary range, power and flexibility. She was also known for her fiery temperament, but her face in this painting looks remarkably serene. She died tragically young at the age of only 28, a few months after a fall from a horse for which she refused to see a physician.

Another portrait of Malibran, by François Bouchot, hangs in the Louvre. We also hold a portrait by Bouchot, of another opera singer, Giulia Grisi.

Maria Malibran (1808–1836) 19th C
unknown artist
Oil on canvas
H 74 x W 59 cm
Royal Academy of Music


The Royal Academy of Music Sinfonia
© the artist. Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

SPACE: The Royal Academy of Music Sinfonia

The Duke's Hall is the main performance space at the Royal Academy of Music. This painting shows an orchestral rehearsal in happier times when musicians could gather together and create without wearing a mask. The organ pictured at the back of the stage has since been replaced by a stunning new instrument, through the generosity of alumni, Sir Elton John and Ray Cooper, in 2013.

This painting is typical of Bob Augur Brown's style, capturing the energy of live music and the way the light falls on the stage. We have four other paintings by Brown in our collection.

The Royal Academy of Music Sinfonia 1998
Bob Augur Brown (b.1936)
Oil on canvas
H 74 x W 90 cm
Royal Academy of Music


Ibiza Landscape
© The Estate of Edward Wolfe. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2021. Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

FRESH AIR: Ibiza Landscape

This painting is one of a number bequeathed to the Royal Academy of Music by alumna, Harriet Cohen. A virtuoso pianist and muse of composer, Sir Arnold Bax, Cohen was also a prolific art collector. This painting hangs in one of the teaching rooms at the Academy and provides a breath of fresh air as students rehearse. The sunshine and open space it depicts reminds us of travel and freedom, and looking forward to holidays abroad.

Edward Wolfe studied at the Slade School of Art from 1916 to 1918 and was elected as a member of the RA in 1972. He was born in Johannesburg but is sometimes referred to as the 'English Matisse' while others regard him as a bit of a maverick of British art.

Ibiza Landscape 1953
Edward Wolfe (1897–1982)
Oil on board
H 30 x W 40 cm
Royal Academy of Music


'With thy sweet fingers'
Photo credit: Royal Academy of Music

MUSIC: 'With thy sweet fingers'

In this portrait a young woman plays a double manual (two keyboard) harpsichord. This instrument was made by Jacob Kirkman (1710-1792) and is in the collection of the Royal College of Music in South Kensington. The artist painted the same instrument in a portrait of her father, musicologist Alfred James Hipkins, in the National Portrait Gallery's collection. His daughter illustrated several of his books, including 'Musical Instruments: Historic, Rare and Unique'.

The Piano Gallery at the Royal Academy of Music also displays a Kirkman harpsichord, but ours is a single manual. Together with other historic keyboards which are all playable, it helps demonstrate the evolution of the piano.

We look forward to welcoming visitors again soon.

'With thy sweet fingers' 1883
Edith Hipkins (1853/1854–1945)
Oil on canvas
H 34 x W 42.5 cm
Royal Academy of Music