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Record NG11

Archive reference number NG11

Copyists' Registers

Date 1824-1971

The registers contain information about admitted copyists. The information in each register is described in the detailed list.

Record type Series
Administrative history

The National Gallery has always admitted students and professional artists and engravers to copy pictures from its collection. Copyists were admitted on two days a week, when the Gallery was closed to the general public. These days were known as 'Students' Days', 'Private Days', or 'Copyists' Days'.

From 1880, the general public could gain admission on Students' Days, on payment of a small fee. The system was abandoned in 1938, when copyists and the general public could visit on any day the Gallery was open.

Copyists had to apply for an admission ticket by sending the Keeper a specimen of work and written application. The number of copyists in oil was limited to 70, and watercolorists were unlimited. The rules stated that 'ordinary or professional copyists in oil will be permitted to pursue their studies in the Gallery for three months, after which time they will make room for those of the next list. Artists or others may, on application, be readmitted to copy after a period of three months from the expiration of the term previously granted'. [Annual Report 1856]. After 1855, the rules for copyists were published in the Annual Reports. The Annual Report also published statistics, which show that the copyist scheme was very popular in the 19th century. For example, in 1884, 26,435 visits were made by copyists, and 1,092 oil copies of pictures were made. 389 new copyists registered that year.

In the 20th century, the scheme became less popular. This was partly due to changes in art education, and the proliferation of good quality commercially produced reproductions. However, a small number of copyists are still admitted to the Gallery every year.

Custodial history

The registers were created by the National Gallery and are now held in the Gallery's Archive.

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