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Philip Hendy Papers



Philip Hendy Papers



Archive reference number



The papers form an incomplete set of the private and public records created by Sir Philip Hendy, between 1924 and 1980, the majority of which are from his time as Director of the NG. They include official administrative documentation; notes, drafts and final copies of his writings and publications; press cuttings; and diaries and correspondence.

Record type


Alternative reference numbers


Administrative history

Philip Hendy was born at Carlisle in 1900. He was elected a King's scholar of Westminster in 1914 and a Westminster exhibitioner of Christ Church, Oxford in 1919. He obtained his BA degree in modern history in 1923 and his MA in 1937.

In 1923, PH was appointed lecturer at the Wallace Collection, London, where he specialised in French painting and decorative arts. In 1924, he also took on the position of Assistant Keeper. At the Wallace Collection he immediately began work on a new edition of the catalogue, which was published in 1928. On the strength of this catalogue, PH was invited to catalogue the paintings of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston. Financed by the trustees of the museum, PH lived in Florence for three years researching the catalogue, which was published in 1931.

In 1930, PH became the Curator of the Department of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It was here that he first became involved in buying pictures and organising exhibitions. PH acquired many Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and other European paintings, not all to the taste of the trustees. He resigned after a quarrel in 1933. PH returned to England and in 1934, he accepted the Directorship of the Leeds City Art Gallery. The onset of the Second World War necessitated the removal of the Gallery to nearby Temple Newsam House in 1939. Here, PH was responsible for the redecoration of the house and the re-hanging of the paintings, which he carried out to much acclaim. During this time PH lectured regularly at Leeds and Oxford Universities and between 1936 and 1946, he was the Slade Professor of Fine Arts at Oxford University.

His success at Temple Newsam led to his appointment in 1946 as Director of the NG. His first task was to rehabilitate the Gallery's exhibition rooms and pictures after the effects of the war. In 1947, he put together an exhibition of cleaned paintings that occasioned much criticism and resulted in a government inquiry. During the 1950s and 1960s, PH led the NG through many difficult years of development and changes to its administrative structure, and made many notable acquisitions. In 1961, he offered to resign after the theft of Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington. The trustees would not accept his resignation, but security measures were tightened. The painting was returned in 1965.

PH had many loyal friends and colleagues at the NG, among them Henry Moore, Lord Robbins and Sir John Witt. After a significant career he resigned from the NG in 1967, having spent 21 years at the helm. After his resignation from the NG, PH spent three years as adviser to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

PH was involved in a number of professional bodies. In 1943, he became a Councillor for the Museums Association and was its President between 1956 and 1958. He was Chairman of the British Council's Fine Arts Committee between 1956 and 1959 and President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) between 1959 and 1965, and of the ICOM Foundation between 1968 and c.1973. Socially he was a member of the Beefsteak Club and the Athenaeum Club. He was knighted in 1950.

Throughout his career PH wrote and lectured on a wide range of topics. He published twelve books and contributed to many more. At various times he wrote regularly for the New Statesman, The Daily Herald, The Listener, The London Mercury and Britain Today. He travelled widely and often, studying art and artists and visiting galleries.

In 1975, PH suffered a severe stroke and spent his last years being cared for by his second wife, Cicely. He died in Oxford in 1980

Custodial history

The collection was created by Philip Hendy and removed from the National Gallery by him when he resigned in 1967. It remained in the possession of the Hendy family until it was donated to the NG in 1993. At this time, it underwent a basic appraisal and a rough list of the contents was compiled.

Two items were acquired separately but have been integrated into the collection: NGA3/2/3/34 was donated to the National Gallery Archive by Jennifer Fletcher in May 2003. NGA3/2/1/14 was transferred from the National Gallery Library in May 2003

Related material

NG16 Director's Office Subject Files: NG16/333 Letters from PH to Lord Clark, Director of the NG 1938 to 1946, at the Tate Gallery Archive, reference 8812 (NRA 32463 Clark).

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