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.

Frank Simpson

776 files; 4 boxes; 22 volumes. This collection has been catalogued. Please search the archive catalogue for full details (Ref FHS). An introduction to this archive, including an online gallery of selected material, can be viewed on the collection in focus page.

The archive contains material created and collected by Frank Simpson over a fifty-year period, both in the course of his activities at the institutions for which he worked (The Courtauld Institute of Art, The Barber Institute of Fine Art (University of Birmingham), M. Knoedler & Co. and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), and also in connection with his own research into collecting and collections.

Although the records relating to all of the organisations for which Simpson worked are of interest, those created and compiled by the London office of M. Knoedler & Co. present the richest resource for the study of provenance, collections and collecting. The Artist Files series, in particular, document the works of art which passed through their salerooms and, as a significant proportion date to the 1920s, they reveal much about the disbanding of collections after the First World War. Most of the material pertains to British art but European art is also represented.

In addition, the records created by Simpson’s aunt, Letitia Simpson (1884–1964), in her role as librarian at M. Knoedler & Co. from c. 1915–1968, reveal much about professional networks and the position of a woman working in the art world at this time.

The Simpson Archive comprises correspondence, research notes, provenance/‘pedigree’ information, sale catalogues, exhibition lists, news cuttings, information about art history courses in the 1930s and a large number of photographs produced by M. Knoedler & Co. dating from c. 1910s–1970s.

Frank Simpson (1911–2002) was a librarian and amateur art historian with a long-held interest in taste and collecting of pictures, especially from salerooms, during the eighteenth century. He was employed as a library clerk at The Courtauld Institute (1934–1945); librarian at The Barber Institute of Fine Art, University of Birmingham (1945–1958); M. Knoedler & Co. (1958–1971); and at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (1971–1976).