Art, Life, Love: Narratives from the Benedict Nicolson Archive

  • 18 March 2024

Art, Life, Love: Narratives from the Benedict Nicolson Archive is now open until 2 August 2024.

This display features material from the archive of the art historian Benedict Nicolson (1914–1978) donated to the Paul Mellon Centre in 2017. As Deputy Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (1939–1947) and Editor of the Burlington Magazine (1947–1978), Nicolson played a prominent role in the British art world during a period of change and development.

Comprising journals and correspondence dating from Nicolson’s earliest years to his last, the collection provides not only a rich resource for the study of art history in the UK, but also a fascinating commentary on the social, political and historical concerns of the day. Furthermore, it features an incredible cast of characters from the worlds of scholarship, literature, politics and high society, including some of the most influential individuals of the period.

This display celebrates the acquisition and potential of the Nicolson Archive. It also explores themes represented in the material and demonstrates how the collection has relevance far beyond the traditional world of art history – touching wider issues in society and exploring “other narratives” relating to sexuality (particularly Queer Histories), politics and individuals.

The bulk of the archive, kindly donated by Nicolson’s daughter Vanessa, has been catalogued and the descriptions were published online in 2022. The Paul Mellon Centre extends special thanks to Vanessa Nicolson for her continued support with all activities surrounding the Benedict Nicolson Archive, in particular generously loaning objects for this display.

You are welcome to visit the display during the Centre's opening hours.