• 04 May 2017

The Paul Mellon Centre is delighted to announce the acquisition of Brian Sewell’s archive. 

Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was an art historian, collector, journalist, and media personality who, by the end of his life, had earned the reputation of ‘Britain’s most controversial art critic’. The Brian Sewell archive contains material relating to every area of his rich and diverse life: it documents both key events and everyday occurrences from his childhood through to his final days. It contains material related to his schooldays, time at the Courtauld, role in ‘the Blunt affair’, investigations uncovering fakes and forgeries, research for published and unpublished books, and work as a TV presenter and media personality. It also documents his friendships, and passions for travel, dogs, and cars.

In addition to these personal papers, the archive contains a comprehensive run of the articles authored by Sewell, meticulously organised by him into two main sequences: the largest concerning art and the arts; and a smaller group on any other subject matter. This near complete run of his journalistic output presents an incredibly valuable resource for anyone studying artistic tastes and preferences, particularly of London, during this period. Some of the articles are accompanied by Sewell’s research notes, as well as correspondence received and exchanged following their publication. Together, this material offers a unique insight into the work and processes of a critic, and the private responses to this very public discipline.

Although not yet catalogued in detail, we are pleased to announce that the material is now open to the public. A general guide and three boxlists are available. Further information about the collection is available here. Individuals wishing to consult material should contact Research Collections staff: collections@paul-mellon-centre.ac.uk.

A small archival display introducing Sewell and featuring some highlights from the Collection is on view at the Centre between 8 May and 8 September 2017.


Banner image: Unidentified photographer, Photographic contact sheet of portraits of Brian Sewell (1931–2015), date unknown. Digital image courtesy of the Paul Mellon Centre, Brian Sewell Archive (Ref: TN47). (Orphan Works Licence #OWLS000090-2).