- 18 September 2023
Tickets have been released for The Practice of Art History in Britain, 1900–60: Paul Oppé’s Art Worlds due to take place on 30 November and 1 December 2023.
In 2017, the archive and library of Paul Oppé (1887–1957) was gifted to the nation under the Acceptance-in-Lieu scheme and allocated to the Paul Mellon Centre. Oppé’s archive and library is one of the most comprehensive collections of the private and professional papers of an art historian in twentieth-century Britain. The holdings are also valuable beyond their immediate relation to Oppé’s life and work, as they document his manifold interactions with artists, historians, and other prominent figures.
Oppé is best known as an independent scholar and a leading expert on British works on paper. A trained classicist, Oppé also acted as advisor and buyer for international museums, he wrote literary criticism, published popular art books, occasionally worked for museums (e.g. as Deputy Director of the V&A) and was a notable collector of eighteenth-century prints and drawings.
The conference takes Oppé’s life and multifaceted career as a springboard to reassess British art historiography in the first half of the twentieth century.
It seeks to question the frequent assumption of British art history as a fractured pursuit with limited professional ambition. Across two days, we discuss new research on a range of actors and institutions that have not yet received much historiographic attention. While focusing primarily on the tacit protocols and practices that informed the dominant forms of scholarly work, we hope that this also allows for new ways to think about “big names” such as Kenneth Clark or the Courtauld Institute, and how they relate to the activities of their lesser-known peers.
There will also be a Drawing Room Display opening in a few weeks' time titled "History is an art": Selections from the Paul Oppe Archive.