History Group Papers: 2004

Read an outline of the talks and papers from the National Gallery History Group in 2004:

Meeting Sixteen: 10 February 2004

The National Gallery and the Purchasing of Italian Renaissance Art, 1850-75 – Saho Matsumoto-Best, Nagoya City University
A paper or related publication is available for consultation in the National Gallery Archive.

This paper described how the Italian paintings in the National Gallery were collected by Eastlake, Boxall, Mündler, Layard and others.

Before the unification of Italy, acquiring Italian Renaissance painting was relatively easy, in legal terms as well as in terms of price. However, after the unification, the new Italian government introduced strict controls on the export of national treasures, as Renaissance art in particular was an important resource for building a sense of Italy's own national cultural identity.

The paper also discussed the significance for the Victorian Briton in owning Italian Renaissance art.

Meeting Seventeen: 18 May 2004

The National Gallery’s role, and its influence on Regional Museums, during World War II – Catherine Pearson, University College London and Writtle College, Essex
A paper or related publication is available for consultation in the National Gallery Archive.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, museums in Britain were threatened with closure for the duration of the war, their role and purpose apparently negated by the removal of large parts of their collections to places of safety.

This paper examined the role of the National Gallery in leading a determined action against closure, and explored the implementation of a variety of innovative exhibitions and schemes that enabled the Gallery to continue to function during this period. The influence that the National Gallery’s wartime work had on the country’s regional museums was explored, especially where this led to the establishment of new collaborative projects between the Gallery and the regions. The contemporary reaction of visitors and curators was also discussed in order to gauge the contribution made by the Gallery and its regional counterparts during this period.

“A very potent force”: the archive of Kenneth Clark (Lord Clark of Saltwood, 1903-1983) – Sue Breakell, Tate
A paper or related publication is available for consultation in the National Gallery Archive.

Kenneth Clark’s papers were allocated to the Tate Archive in 1988. As well as his large personal archive of writings and correspondence, they include records from his working life, including his service as Director of the National Gallery (1934-1945) and Chairman of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC) during the Second World War.

The paper presented an overview of the archive and how it is complemented by material at the National Gallery and Imperial War Museum. It highlighted some key themes of the 1930s and 1940s, including Clark’s promotion and protection of young British artists, his attempts to bring art to wider audiences, and the distinction between ‘art’ and ‘record’ in the WAAC pictures.

Meeting Eighteen: 28 September 2004

Architectures of Display at the National Gallery in the Nineteenth Century – Chris Whitehead, University of Newcastle
A paper or related publication is available for consultation in the National Gallery Archive.

The National Gallery building in Trafalgar Square, designed by William Wilkins, was generally deemed to be unsatisfactory soon after it was built. As a result, many architectural projects for the rebuilding or redevelopment of the gallery were produced from the 1830s, culminating in the development of the north-east wing designed by E.M. Barry in the 1870s. This architectural activity coincided with the development of new approaches to art history and of new understandings of gallery display as a medium capable of structuring art historical narratives.

This paper examined these narratives and considered how they were supported and articulated by architecture and interior design. The paper concluded by looking carefully at the north-east extension opened in 1876 and its display of foreign paintings, making reference to archival and other sources which can help us both to reconstruct a sense of this historical display space and to consider its relevance today.

Boris Anrep and the National Gallery Mosaics – Lois Oliver, National Gallery
A paper or related publication is available for consultation in the National Gallery Archive.

The first works of art encountered by visitors to the National Gallery are the mosaics at the main entrance, created by the Russian artist Boris Anrep over the period of 1926 to 1952. A larger-than-life character, Anrep was an intimate of the Bloomsbury group and a friend of Augustus John and Anna Akhmatova.

His witty mosaics include many famous figures of the day, such as Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf and Greta Garbo. Drawing on papers from the National Gallery, Tate and V&A archives, Lois Oliver, author of ‘Boris Anrep: The National Gallery Mosaics’ (National Gallery, 2004), traced the often humorous history of their commission and creation.

Read further papers from the National Gallery History Group