The Fry Gallery Archive

  • 22 February 2023

The Paul Mellon Centre is delighted to announce that it has acquired the Fry Gallery Archive. The collection, which consists of nine boxes of material collected and created by Cyril (1918–2010) and Shirley (1926–2021) Fry contains material relating to the day-to-day running of the gallery which specialised in eighteenth and nineteenth-century watercolours and drawings. Most notably it includes material relating to some of the most famous collectors of the time: Paul Mellon, Leonard Gordon Duke and Dudley Snelgrove.

Cyril Fry’s career as an art dealer began with him being an amateur collector; Fry worked for eighteen years as a specialised teacher for deaf children whilst also collecting and selling artwork from the workshop at his home in Blackheath. After resigning from teaching in 1967, Fry turned his hobby into a full-time job, opening the Fry Gallery with a sold-out exhibition in December 1967. The gallery was originally located in Jermyn Street (1967–1986) and operated during the music festival in Aldeburgh, Suffolk (1972–c.1990s).

The collection, kindly donated by Cyril and Shirley’s children Jonathan, Peter, Helen and Thomas in 2022, is the first archive held at the Centre devoted specifically to an art gallery. It enhances material already held concerning the collecting and dealing of British art, in particular the records of the art dealer, M. Knoedler & Co. which are part of the Simpson Archive. The collection contains: stock books; research notes; photographs and images of works of art bought and sold by the gallery; catalogues annotated with details of price and buyer; and correspondence with customers – including private individuals, galleries and museums. The collection also includes material relating specifically to Leonard Gordon Duke (1890–1971), who was a close friend of both Cyril Fry and Paul Mellon. Additionally, it holds items which reflect Cyril’s interest in the Slade School of Art, in particular images of, and research on, artists and teachers at the Slade at around the turn of the nineteenth century.

The Fry Gallery Archive has not yet been catalogued, but a boxlist is available, and the material is open for consultation. For more information on the Paul Mellon Centre’s collections see here.