Archives & Library

Archive Collections

The Centre holds and provides access to archive material relating to the study of British art and architectural history. The collections contain the research papers of art historians, museum directors and curators; dealers; art critics, collectors and other individuals working in the field of art history.

Benedict Nicolson

18 journals; 32 folders of correspondence; 3 files of assorted material. This material has been catalogued. Please search the archive catalogue for full details (Ref LBN).

Photographic portrait of Ben Nicolson sat on a wooden bench looking at the camera The archive includes material created and collected by Nicolson, largely in a personal rather than professional capacity, throughout his life. The majority pertains to 1933–1939. The collection primarily includes journals and correspondence.

The journals sit at the heart of the collection, with twelve of the eighteen volumes documenting Nicolson’s formative years. They chart the period when he was studying modern history at Balliol College (1933–36); travelling extensively viewing the pictures in public and private collections across Europe and the United States; studying with Bernard Berenson at the Villa I Tatti; working as an unpaid intern under Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery; and appointed Deputy Surveyor of the King’s Pictures. Two of the journals cover his experiences during the Second World War; another covers the years immediately following his appointment as editor of the Burlington Magazine. The final two journals are more personal in nature and are largely concerned with Nicolson’s romantic relationships, and the relationships of his close friends.

Complementing the journals are thirty-two files of correspondence with a wide range of friends. The son of wealthy, well-connected, famous parents, Nicolson was acquainted with some of the most influential individuals of the day. The journals and correspondence document his rich and diverse social life. Featuring an enormous cast of characters, they provide a unique insight into some of the individuals and events that shaped the twentieth century.

Lionel Benedict Nicolson (1914–1978) was a British art historian and author. He was the elder son of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. He was Deputy Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (1939–1947), serving in British Army Intelligence for the duration of the Second World War. Nicolson was editor of the Burlington Magazine (1947–1978).