Archives & Library

Exploring the Frank Simpson Archive

Frank Simpson (1911–2002) was a Librarian and amateur art historian with a long-held interest in taste and the collecting of pictures in England in the eighteenth century, particularly from salerooms. The Centre holds his archive, which includes records from the London office of M. Knoedler & Co., where he worked during the 1950s–1970s. Much of the material in this archive is unique and contains a wealth of information for those interested in the study of provenance, and collections and collecting during the eighteenth to twentieth centuries.

The archive was acquired from two sources:

  • The Paul Mellon Centre. Frank worked as Librarian there from 1971–1976 and brought many records with him from his previous employment in order to continue his research. These were then left at the Centre when he retired in 1976.
  • The Barber Institute of Fine Arts (Birmingham University). Frank worked as Librarian there between 1945–1958. The Centre acquired correspondence, newspaper cuttings, notebooks, invoices, receipts and publicity material relating to M. Knoedler & Co.’s London office from The Barber Institute by donation in 2013, although it is not known why these records had been left there.

As the material came from different sources and had been moved several times, hardly any of the original order in which Frank used the records remained. Therefore, with the purpose of making it easier to find information and understand this large and complicated collection, during the process of cataloguing the material was rearranged chronologically according to Frank’s employment.

The archive is fully catalogued and available for research. This spotlight feature highlights some of the interesting people and themes which can be found amongst it.