Lifelines – an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Milein Cosman

In recent years, the work of Milein Cosman (1921-2017) has been mostly seen in this country at the Wigmore Hall in London, but in the 1950s the drawings she did for the weekly Radio Times earned her a national audience. A devoted concert-goer, she was renowned for her skill at catching the personalities and characteristic movements of famous musicians, in rehearsal or performance, without letting her art ever slip into caricature. In 1958 she worked with ITV on a television series for children about drawing. She also turned to print-making and exhibited for many years with Camden Printmakers. Today her work can be found in the British Museum, the V&A Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as in other museums around the world.

The opportunity to mount a show of Milein’s work at Clare Hall is most welcome, and we are grateful to Julian Hogg, Peter Black and Alison Garnham for all they have done to make this possible. The exhibition begins in 1947, the year that the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was reunited for the first time since 1938 with its Jewish conductor Bruno Walter at the Edinburgh Festival. The programme’s highlight was Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, which Milein desperately wanted to hear and record through her drawings of the performance. The man asked to assist her with travel and press passes for concerts, and other Festival events, was Hans Keller, the writer and musicologist. Their meeting immediately led to a partnership and in 1961 they married.

Both were emigrées, Cosman arriving from Germany in 1939 and Keller having fled Austria after the Anschluss. Keller became a brilliant musicologist, reaching a wide audience through his work as a broadcaster and music critic. He joined the BBC at the suggestion of William Glock, who also ensured that Hans and Milein were regular visitors at the Dartington Summer Music School. We are pleased that Hans Keller’s centenary falls during the period of this Milein Cosman exhibition and that a visit to it will be part of the Hans Keller Study Day on 16 March 2019.

Frances Spalding, Chair of Clare Hall’s Art Committee