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The Brian Sewell Archive - The "Blunt Affair"

  • 25 May 2017

In the run up to London History Day on Wednesday 31 May we will be highlighting some of the items featured in our current display The Brian Sewell Archive: An Introduction. London History Day will include forty of the city's museums and galleries staging special events and displays for one day only.

Christmas card "hate mail" sent to Sewell in the early 1980s.

Alongside his work as an art critic, Sewell is perhaps most well-known for his role in the "Blunt Affair". It is widely acknowledged that Sewell's decision to act as Blunt's unoffical spokesperson following Blunt's exposure as a Soviet spy in 1979 had an immediate impact on Sewell's life, thrusting him into the public eye. The archive contains a considerable amount of material relating to the "Blunt affair", the majority of it - as one might expect - documenting it from Sewell's point of view. The first references to Blunt appear in the material that dates from the 1950s. Diary entries, postcards and letters from this time frequently include casual mentions of him. By the time of Blunt's exposure in 1979, Sewell recorded in his autobiography that they were speaking at least once a day. The archive contains an explosion of material from this period and then a further glut of press material following Blunt's death in 1983. An interesting aspect of the archive is the material that reveals how Sewell's defence of his friend was perceived by the public, for example two Christmas cards sent as hate mail to Sewell the "sewer rat".

Text adapted and taken from the accompanying booklet to The Brian Sewell Archive: An Introduction display, free to visit from 8 May - 8 September and open as part of London History Day on Wednesday 31 May.

Futher reading:
The Brian Sewell Archive: "Brian and Mammy"