The Artist’s Secret

for voice and piano


Text: Olive Schreiner (1855 – 1920)

There was an artist once, and he painted a picture. Other artists had
colours richer and rarer, and painted more notable pictures. He painted
his with one colour, there was a wonderful red glow on it; and the
people went up and down, saying, “We like the picture, we like the glow.”

The other artists came and said, “Where does he get his colour from?”
They asked him; and he smiled and said, “I cannot tell you”; and
worked on with his head bent low.

And one went to the far East and bought costly pigments, and made a
rare colour and painted, but after a time the picture faded. Another
read in the old books, and made a colour rich and rare, but when he had
put it on the picture it was dead.

But the artist painted on. Always the work got redder and redder, and
the artist grew whiter and whiter. At last one day they found him dead
before his picture, and they took him up to bury him. The other men
looked about in all the pots and crucibles, but they found nothing they
had not.

And when they undressed him to put his grave-clothes on him, they
found above his left breast the mark of a wound — it was an old, old
wound, that must have been there all his life, for the edges were old
and hardened; but Death, who seals all things, had drawn the edges
together, and closed it up.

And they buried him. And still the people went about saying, “Where
did he find his colour from?”
And it came to pass that after a while the artist was forgotten —
but the work lived.

Sheet music

Relation with Pears and Britten
by Elizaveta Agrafenina

Henriëtte Bosmans relation with Pears and Britten was in short, a strong admiration from both sides. Bosmans saw Pears perform a lied recital with Britten for the first time in 1946, and since then admired both the singer and composer/pianist. After the WW2, English musicians were very welcome to the Netherlands and Britten became the house composer for the Holland festival. A title he held for 20 years. Bosmans played works by Britten, defended him when he was criticized by the local newspapers and sent him many presents during their letter exchange. The correspondence was of an honest nature, where Bosmans often spoke her mind and sought for a musical exchange of ideas. When Britten visited her in Amsterdam, he suggested that she should compose a piece on the poem The Artist’s Secret, which she later dedicated to Pears. She lobbied for Britten in The Netherlands and they were friends for many years.

Judging from Bosmans perspective, it is noticeably clear that she was inspired by Britten and Pears. This worked to her benefit. She found the inspiration to write works, met her muse “Perugia” and continued being an influential writer and eager to discuss the difficulties of artists and the future of the new musicians, composers, and conductors. Being a -female- composer in a society which did not share the same equality thoughts of today made her stand out, not because of her gender, but because of what she achieved during her lifetime.

When Bosmans visited “Boosey and Hawkes” in London, she saw how well the English composers where promoted. She also writes that it was difficult to be a Dutch musician, because they were not sought after in The Netherlands. “Wat ik wensch, is dat ons publiek geloof zal hebben in de Nederlandsche kunstenaars – niet a prioti méér, maar zeker ook niet minder dan in de buitenlandsche”*. Maybe this is also why she gave her auteur rights to GENECO in hope to promote a new generation of composers in The Netherlands.

* “What I wish is that our public will have faith in the Dutch artists – not to priorities more, but certainly no less than the foreign ones”

Letter correspondence between Bosmans and Britten














Benjamin Britten
(22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976)

was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He is considered one of the most important British composers of the 20th-century. He wrote large scale and chamber operas such as Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw, orchestral pieces, choral, solo vocal, chamber and instrumental as well as film music. Britten founded together with Peter Pears and Eric Crozier the annual Aldeburgh Festival in 1948






Peter Pears
(22 June 1910 – 3 April 1986)

was an English tenor. His career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, who was his personal and professional partner for nearly forty years.
Britten wrote many concert and operatic works dedicated to his voice. Britten and Pears were known for their performances as a duo, especially of lieder by Schubert and Schumann.