Drawings of Joy Finzi

Joy Finzi’s skill as a portraitist has been much admired, and one of her portraits of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Her portraits are very sensitive portrayals of individuals, which have been said to very accurately convey the real person, “with a feeling of vivid life” as the composer Howard Ferguson said in his tribute after Joy Finzi’s death in 1991.

Joy was born in Hampstead in 1907, and met the young composer Gerald Finzi in 1933. They married a few months later, and in the late 1930s built a house on the site of Church Farm, Ashmansworth, in Hampshire. The house was completed in 1939, and became a meeting place for young musicians, artists and writers drawn to the personalities of Gerald and Joy, and the atmosphere of their house and garden. Many of these visitors sat for portraits by Joy, often when engaged in conversation or listening to music.

Joy had undertaken some training in sculpture and pottery at the Central School of Art and Design in London, but her drawing and painting were self-taught.

The University of Reading holds seven original portrait drawings by Joy Finzi – Helen Thomas (1877-1966), the writer and widow of the poet Edward Thomas (1960), Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978), the poet and writer (1960), Valentine Ackland (1906-1969), the poet (1961), David Jones (1895-1974), the artist, writer and poet (1961), and three of Edmund Blunden (1896-1974), the poet, writer and teacher (1952, 1953 and 1962).

More information

  • In that place : the portrait drawings of Joy Finzi. Marlborough : Libanus Press, 1987 (Finzi Book Room 18C/54)
    Vivid life : portrait drawings by Joy Finzi. Exhibition catalogue for exhibition at Newbury District Museum, 4-27 May 1996 (Finzi Book Room 18C/66) 
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