The Paul Oppé Archive is now catalogued

  • 2 June 2020

Black and white photograph of Paul Oppe leaning on a fence. The Paul Oppé Archive, which comprises professional and personal papers collected and created by Oppé over the course of his life, has been fully catalogued. The descriptions are now live and searchable in the archive catalogue available on our website.

Adolph Paul Oppé (1878–1957) was a British art historian, critic, art collector and museum official. Along with his extensive personal library, this archive collection was allocated to the Paul Mellon Centre under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme in 2018, having been assessed by a panel of experts and deemed to be of national importance. This is the first such archive collection to be held here at the centre and now work on the catalogue has been completed, we are both proud and excited to make such a rich collection available to readers.

The archive contains material predominantly documenting Oppé’s core interest in eighteenth century drawings and watercolours by British artists. This includes his research notes and correspondence on individual artists, on many of whom Oppé published seminal catalogues, articles and monographs – artists such as Francis Towne, Alexander and John Robert Cozens, and William Hogarth. Also, this collection contains material pertaining to his own collection of works, with many detailed logs, notebooks and inventories. These capture his own purchases as well as those of his contemporaries, and predecessors. His thorough approach to research meant that he kept to hand large volumes of notebooks, as well as heavily annotated exhibition and auction catalogues, which contain a vast array of observations and meticulously noted details regarding works he saw in public and private collections, at exhibitions or at auction.

This material relating directly to his work as an art historian and collector is perfectly complimented by a large collection of his personal papers, dating back to his student days and early career as a lecturer in ancient Greek art and history. Amongst this material are his diaries and personal notebooks, including the series referred to as the Black Books. He maintained these diaries from the 1890s up until his death in 1957. They capture his private thoughts on life, love, politics and art and offer insight into the cultural milieu in which much of his work and scholarship existed.

The Centre is closed in response to the pandemic so the Paul Oppé Archive is not open for in-person consultation at this time. However, it is possible to respond to some enquiries remotely, so please contact us if you have a question concerning the archive at [email protected].