History Group Papers: 2000

Read an outline of the talks and papers from the National Gallery History Group in 2000:

Meeting Four: 9 March 2000

‘Charles Fairfax Murray and the development of the National Gallery Collection’ – Paul Tucker
The National Gallery Archive does not hold a copy of this paper.

This paper considered the activity of Charles Fairfax Murray as unofficial agent to the National Gallery under the directorship of Sir Frederic Burton. Focusing on Murray’s role in increasing the Gallery’s holdings of Sienese masters, the paper demonstrated how the Gallery sought to place these holdings in the wider context of the history of the critical ‘rediscovery’ of the school. It also showed how the Gallery was driven to make a collection illustrative of the development of painting.

Lack of entire commitment on the part of the National Gallery to the implications of this scheme, in particular with regard to the Sienese school, resulted in less-than-full benefit being derived from Murray’s expertise and commercial opportunities in this area. This is evident if one considers his contemporary dealings (both scholarly and commercial) with art critics and historians such as Ruskin and Cavalcaselle, with German museum directors, particularly Wilhelm Bode, and with private collectors both in England and Germany.

‘Charles Fairfax Murray and the Directorship of the National Gallery 1894’ – David Elliot
The National Gallery Archive does not hold a copy of this paper.

Sir Frederic Burton completed his 20 years of service to the National Gallery in 1894 at a time when there was increasing competition for museum-quality pictures from Germany and the United States. The future growth of the national collection was a matter of public debate, and Burton’s performance as Director was decried and defended in equal measure in the press.

The controversy focused attention on the role of the Director, his relationship to the Trustees, and on the Trustees themselves who were in some disarray. Charles Fairfax Murray was one of three candidates in contention for the post after the long preliminary selection process conducted by William Gladstone, who was personally involved, and Sir William Harcourt, his Chancellor. Fairfax Murray’s little known role in the affair provides a starting point from which to examine the process by which Edward Poynter became Director.

Meeting Five: 3 October 2000

The Purchase of Hans Holbein’s portrait of Christina of Denmark for the National Gallery by the National Art Collections Fund, May-June 1909 – Flaminia Gennari Santori, European University Institute
A paper or related publication is available for consultation in the National Gallery Archive.

The case of Hans Holbein's portrait of Christina of Denmark – known also as the Norfolk Holbein – provides an interesting insight into the international art market in the early 20th century. This paper considered the acquisition of the portrait in its political dimension.

Drawing on documents in the National Gallery Archive and articles in the British and American press, the paper investigated the debate that arose over the administration and evolving perception of national heritage in Britain. In addition, it explored the role of the press in controlling a painting’s market value and promoting specific cultural or political agendas.

Read further papers from the National Gallery History Group