Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Photographers and Artists

This page lists, in alphabetical order, the names of the photographers and artists, whether professional or amateur (friends), who have taken pictures of Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji or made representations of him. The right-hand column gives references to the pages in the sources listed below, where reproductions of the photographs can be found (there may be other sources).


  • OB: Sean Vaughn Owen, “Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji: An Oral Biography” (Ph.D. diss., University of Southampton, 2006). Contains a total of twenty-seven iconographic documents (Sorabji, his parents, his friend Reginald Norman Best, places associated with him, various documents of biographical significance).
  • OC4, OC5: Booklets for the Altarus AIR-CD-9074 (4) recording of Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) and its reissue AIR-CD-9074 (5)
  • RS: Ronald Stevenson’s edition of the Fantasiettina sul nome illustre dell’egregio poeta Christopher Grieve ossia Hugh M’Diarmid (1961; 10 pp.)
  • SA: Photographs reproduced on the Sorabji Archive’s website
  • SCC: Sorabji: A Critical Celebration

References to rare images published only as part of articles are also given, whether or not the photographer’s name is known.

Other sources for representations of Sorabji

Information on photographers can be found in The Victorian Image Collection, Photographers of Great Britain & Ireland, 1840-1940.

Click on a column heading to sort, then shift-click on other headings to sort on multiple columns.
Surround strings with quotation marks for specific searches. Refresh the page to revert to the initial order.

Photographer/Artist Comments Source
Photographer/Artist Comments Source
Cecil, Hugh (full name: Hugh Cecil Saunders; 1892-1974) [Hugh Cecil] Famous English photographer who established his London studio at 100 Victoria Street in 1912. Took a photograph of Sorabji (wearing a buttoned jacket, with both hands visible) in the late 1910s or early 1920s.

An original copy is found in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection (box 15, F.1).
SCC, 427
Coburn, Alvin Langdon (1882-1966) [Alvin Langdon Coburn] Born in Boston, Coburn moved to England in 1912, where he pioneered vortographs. He published Men of Mark (London: Duckworth; New York: Mitchell Kennerly, 1913) and More Men of Mark (London: Duckworth, 1922).

Between 1913 and 1921 Coburn photographed forty-eight musicians for a volume entitled Musicians of Mark, which was never published. See Valentina Branchini, “Reconstruction of the Musicians of Mark”, in The Photographs of Alvin Langdon Coburn at George Eastman House: A Characterization Study of Materials and Techniques (Rochester, NY: George Eastman House, 2009), 76-94 (Sorabji is not mentioned anywhere and no photographs of him are included).

A list can be also be obtained using the search engine on the George Eastman House website. One of the photographs of Sorabji (SCC, 12), described as a gelatin silver print (27.8 × 20.5 cm), is listed and displayed as a bequest of the photographer on the George Eastman Museum website (no. 1967.0097.0019). It is inscribed in ink on the recto of the mount: “To my friend A. Langdon Coburn very sincerely, Kaikhosru Sorabji 20-11-18”.

Coburn shared Sorabji’s interest in the pianola and the occult. The composer may have played to him his Concerto pour piano et orchestra da camera [no. 3] (1918; 100 pp.), from which time the photographs date.
OC4, cover; OC5, cover (cropped)
SCC, 12, 232
Coster, Howard Sydney Musgrave (1885-1959) [Howard Sydney Musgrave Coster] Coster, who opened his studio in London in 1926 (Coster, Photographer of Men; 8 & 9 Essex Street, Strand), took photographs of Sorabji in 1932. One was used on the cover of the Oxford University Press brochure published in 1938 (wearing a striped jacket, with his left hand on his cheek).

For a black and white reproduction of the sepia original, see John Purser, Chasing a Restless Muse: Erik Chisholm, Scottish Modernist, 1904-1965: Chasing a Restless Muse (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2009), 60.

An original copy is found in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection (box 15, F.2).

For a biographical article, see the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription required).
Dickie, Peter [Peter Dickie] Took a photograph of Sorabji with Barry Peter Ould in 1987 at Marley House Nursing Home. SCC, 447
Grayson, Bt., Sir Jeremy [Sir Jeremy Grayson, Bt.] Photographer based in Wareham, Dorset. Took a series of photographs of Sorabji (some of them with Yonty Solomon) in 1977. See an entry on p. 1781 of the 107th edition of Burke’s Peerage (subscription required to see full entry).

Another photograph shows Sorabji with Solomon in October 1997; see Yonty Solomon, “Obituaries: Kaikhosru Sorabji”, The Independent, 17 October 1988.

An original copy of one of the two photographs showing Sorabji at his desk, with his ring on the little finger of his left hand, is found in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection (box 15, F.5).
OB, 318-20; SA (1, 2); SCC, 92
Histed, Ernest Walter (1862-1947) [Ernest Walter Histed] Born in Brighton, Histed made his reputation in Chicago and in Pittsburgh. On his return to England, he set up a studio in New Bond Street and then in Baker Street. He later returned to the United States (New York and Palm Beach).

Took a photograph of Sorabji in or before 1917, showing him facing left, wearing a jacket and vest with closely spaced stripes. The copy referred to in the third column bears the inscription “Kaikhosru Sorabji to N.P. 24.10.17” (Norman Peterkin).
Post of 4 December 2021 on Sean Vaughn Owen’s Facebook page
Seah, Stephen, and Macnamara [Stephen Shea and Macnamara] Photographers working on Sherwood Street, London NW1.

Took a photograph of Sorabji in January 1926.
Private collection
Muspratt, Helen (1907-2001) [Helen Muspratt] Helen Muspratt (see the entry for her sister Joan below for further details) photographed Sorabji wearing a jacket with thin stripes about one inch apart, looking to the viewer’s right, with his right elbow on a stand, holding his left hand. Post of 19 December 2021 on Sean Vaughn Owen’s Facebook page
Musprat, Joan Alice (1908-57) [Joan Alice Muspratt] Joan Alice Muspratt was a photographer based at 10 Institute Road, Swanage. In 1934 she gave up a career as a teacher to join her sister Helen (1907-2001; obituary in The Guardian), who had set up her studio in Swanage in 1929 and became a leading woman photographer, opening a studio in Oxford in the late 1930s. An exhibition of photographs by the Muspratt sisters (“Swanage in Newberry’s Time”) was held at the Swanage Museum and Heritage Centre from 31 March to 9 May 2008.

The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford have organized an exhibition entitled Helen Muspratt Photographer, curated by her daughter, Jessica Sutcliffe, in Blackwell Hall, Weston Library (5 October to 20 December 2020). See the website Helen Muspratt Photographer and Michael Pritchard, Archive: Helen Muspratt goes to the Bodleian, British Photographic History: Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history, 29 August 2020.

Joan Muspratt took at least five photographs of Sorabji. The first two date from 1945, while the other two may date from around 1950 (as suggested in RS): There is an archival sound recording of an interview with Helen Muspratt in the collection of the British Library.

An original copy of the photograph showing Sorabji in a pinstripe suit is in the Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji Collection (box 15, F.4).
See the list in the second column
Ovesen, Hans The Danish freelance landscape architect, painter, and musician Hans Ovesen made a drawing of Sorabji, with his left hand on his chin and his ring prominently displayed. The drawing used to be reproduced on a website (along with other Sorabji-related images) at (no longer active).  
Peterkin, Norman (1886-1982) [Norman Peterkin] English composer of Scottish and Irish descent; one of Sorabji’s closest friends since about 1917.

Took pictures of Sorabji sitting at his piano, outside his house (both 1966) and standing on the slopes of Corfe Castle (ca. 1934)
OC4, 20; OC5, 27
SCC, 35, 57, 74
Peterkin Marie [Marie Peterkin, née Lang] (d. 1960) Took a photograph of Sorabji and her husband, Norman, in the mid-1930s (on the left side of Peterkin’s house, holding his right arm). SCC, 140
“Rembrandt” (Rembrandt and Van Dykes, Limited, Artists and Photographers) This photographer from Bombay took a photograph of Sorabji in 1933 (wearing jacket and tie, with gold-rimmed glasses). SA; SCC, 268
Spare, Austin Osman (1886-1856) [Austin Osman Spare] The English artist, painter, and occult magician Austin Osman Spare seems to have made a portrait of Sorabji, listed as “K.S. Sorabji Esq’ (No.176)” in the catalogue for his studio exhibition in 1937 (whereabouts unknown). This would be the only portrait ever made of Sorabji by an artist. See also Robert Ansell, “The Living Word of Zos” (2006).
Spencer-Bentley, Clive [Clive Spencer-Bentley] English schoolteacher and composer; friend and dedicatee of Sorabji, of whom he photographed in July 1988. One of these photographs is used on the home page of the Sorabji Resource Site. For another photograph by Spencer-Bentley, see Charles Beauclerk, Piano Man: A Life of John Ogdon (London: Simon & Schuster, 2014), between pp. 176 and 177.

For a rare colour photograph, see the booklet for Altarus AIR-CD-9067.
OC4, 7; OC5, 8; SA (1, 2)
Stafford, Simon [Simon Stafford] An image (taken by chance) of Sorabji, holding a stick in his right hand, crossing the road near the Red Lion Inn (now Hotel), 1 North Street, Wareham {Google Maps}, was published as part of the section “Our town then and now” in Keith Martin, Oxford New Geography, 4 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 4: 11.
Unidentified Sorabji (bust), with dark-rimmed glasses, wearing a dark suit and tie, with the points of his white shirt held up by a pin; reproduced in his “The Metapsychic Motive in Music”, The Modern Mystic and Monthly Science Review 3, no. 5 (June 1939): 207-10, no. 6 (July 1939): 238-41, and booklet to Altarus AIR-CD-9082.
Unidentified Sorabji seated at his 1896 Steinway piano in the late 1960s (only the hands are visible); reproduced in Kevin Bowyer, “Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988)”, Organist’s Review 78, no. 2 (1992): 113-18; 117 (part I).
Unidentified Sorabji at his front door with Russell Harty, presenter of the London Weekend Television’s programme Aquarius (broadcast on 11 June 1977); on the left is the warning “All calls and visits Strictly Barred Unless previously arranged”. Published in “Weekend TV”, Harrow Observer, 10 June 1977, 8; reproduced on Sean Vaughn Owen’s Facebook page, 26 February 2020.
Last modified: 2024-03-05
© Marc-André Roberge 2024
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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