Kapp’s caricatures

Harriet Cohen

Edmond Xavier Kapp (1890–1978) was a prolific artist whose drawings of musicians and other personalities appeared in a number of periodicals, among them the political and literary review, Time & Tide. In addition, there are several books dedicated to his pictures. Kapp served in the First World War with the Royal Sussex regiment, and on his return to London began to submit his work to magazines, having published only a handful of items before 1919. Reviewed as ’emphatic by the accumulation of well-observed and well-expressed detail’ in a Spectator article (20 January 1923, p. 22), his sketches and caricatures can be seen in several British collections, notably in the National Portrait Gallery:


In 1926 Kapp and his first wife Yvonne (1903–99) (under the pseudonym Yvonne Cloud) together published Pastiche: A Music-Room Book, a collection of music-related writings and drawings. Harriet Cohen (top) is slender elegance while Landon Ronald (below) is simply extraordinary.

Sir Landon Ronald

Contrasting aspects of conductors are shown, with  Boult towering over his orchestra (a frightened violinist cowering in the left corner), Henry Wood all finesse and flair.

Sir Adrian Boult

Henry Wood

Arnold Dolmetsch (1858–1940) is also depicted in this book, the two men being good friends, meeting regularly in Dolmetsch’s home in Haslemere. According to Yvonne Kapp, Dolmetsch gave them one of the first four numbered recorders produced in his workshop (Kapp, 2003: p. 83). Perhaps, then, Kapp was drawn to the early music world, as one particularly charming picture in Pastiche captures Ireland’s RCM contemporary Harold Samuel (1879–1937) playing Bach, set alongside words on the subject of hearing music by this composer:

‘In listening to Bach the whole gamut of sensibility, divorcedHarold Samuel playing Bach from sensation and thought, is touched. Emotion were too abused a term to apply to the source of those springs, since emotion is most often named in what the finite motives of association rouse. Bach has no traffic with such motives: he has created, as it were, out of the surround­ing air; and the listener is first put to it to discover his own affinity, part by part, with the impersonal ether before he can enter the world in which these sounds move in their strict and inevitable perfection’ (Cloud, 1926: p. 29).

Other musicians illustrated include Beecham and Alexander Mackenzie – though not at this point John Ireland. Kapp did sketch many other composers, among them Holst, Stanford and Vaughan Williams. His early (1914) representation of Elgar is in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, which holds 243 of Kapp’s portraits and caricatures. In 1932 he drew Delius in Fontainebleau and in that same year finally turned his attention to Ireland, revealing him in one of his sunnier guises at a happy time in the composer’s life.

Kapp Ireland


Cloud, Yvonne. Pastiche: A Music-Room Book, with 28 drawings by Edmond X. Kapp. London: Faber & Gwyer, 1926.

Kapp, Yvonne. Time Will Tell. London: Verso, 2003.

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