‘Bright flower breaks from charnel bough’: Commissioning the Arts of Peace for the 1953 Coronation

This article was originally published as ‘“Bright flower breaks from charnel bough”: The arts of peace and the 1953 Coronation’, in The Finzi Journal (March, 2014), 90-118.

As it is not available online, I am hosting a copy here on my site.

The article will also consider some of the reasons for the works’ subsequent lack of success, including the commissioning purpose, the publication history and the contemporary and later reception. I will argue that the failures and ambivalences are both the result of the artists’ attitude to a prestigious but occasional commission, and the result of the difficult legacies of the Second World War, of austerity Britain and of the first Elizabethan age. In ‘Canzonet’, by the poet Louis MacNeice and composer Alan Rawsthorne, the difficult legacy is turned into an opportunity for a serious and complex negotiation between celebrating the ‘bright flower’ of a young queen born in the spring time, and simultaneously insisting on the dark background, the ‘charnel bough’.

Firth, 2014, p.91

Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash