Skip to main content

W.G. Constable, diaries



W.G. Constable, diaries



Archive reference number



Work diaries covering the period of Constable's employment at the National Gallery and comprising brief but meticulous daily entries broken down under the following headings: Letters [sent], Calls [made], Interviews [conducted], which are used consistently throughout. Occasional references are made to Estate Duty Office inspections undertaken, as are luncheon appointments, lectures, meetings and other activities which are uncatagorised at the end of the relevant entry.

Record type


Alternative reference numbers


Administrative history

W.G. (William George) Constable (1887-1976) was a museum curator and art historian. Born at Derby 27 October 1887, there was a family connection to the painter John Constable; however, the exact relationship was never established. He was educated at Derby School, where his father was the headmaster, and afterwards at St. John's College, Cambridge. Although originally pursing a career in law, his harrowing experiences in the trenches during the First World War and long convalescence changed his life, and he decided to follow his passion for the arts, enrolling as a student at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Constable was appointed Assistant at the National Gallery on 29 October 1923, having previously been a lecturer at the Wallace Collection. In 1927 he established the art historical dossier system 'into which photographs of related pictures, drawings etc. were placed, letters giving information about the pictures, articles etc. were put there, and also important bibliographical references' (Ref. NG16/64/1). On 1 January 1929 he was promoted to Acting Assistant Director [letters of congratulation are among Constable's papers at the Smithsonian Institution]; however, he resigned in November the following year to take up duties as the first Director of the newly formed Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. He also served as Curator of Paintings at Boston Museum of Fine Arts from 1938-1957.

Constable lectured and published on art collecting, connoisseurship, museum administration, and British and Italian art, notably John Flaxman (1927), Richard Wilson (1953) and Canaletto (1962).

Custodial history

Presented to the National Gallery by his widow Mrs Olivia Constable in Dec 1978; Board minute for 7 Dec 1978, NG1/16, p. 148.

Related material

Material held in the National Gallery Archive: NG16/330/1: Registry files: W.G. Constable, 'Cleaning and Care of the National Gallery Pictures', Nature, vol. 162, p. 160, 31 Jul 1948. NG16/338/1: Registry files: Conservation, W.G. Constable's notes on repairs to pictures 1924-1930 In addition, Constable's letters are scattered across NG16/290: Registry files: miscellaneous correspondence Associated material held in other archives: Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art, W.G. Constable papers, 1905-1983, bulk 1920-1976; oral history interview, Jul 1972-Jun 1973 Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, W.G. Constable Archive St John's College Library, Cambridge, Papers of William George Constable Brooklyn Museum Libraries and Archives, Artist file. William Constable Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library, William Constable 1906- : artist file

Your list will only be saved temporarily. Inactivity of more than 20 minutes could result in the loss of your list. If you would like to keep a record of your list, we suggest you print it out or email it to yourself.

Your list of records will be sent to us if you request an appointment, and a summary will be included in your appointment email notification.