Archives & Library

Library Collections

The library collections cover British painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, decorative arts, architecture and garden history from the medieval period to the present day. The collections on British artists and architects, the British and Irish country house and the eighteenth-century Grand Tour are particularly strong.

Paul Oppé

1250 books. The collection has been fully catalogued on the Library and Photographic Archive catalogue. It is kept in the Library Special Collections under the classmark ‘OPPE’. An introduction to this collection, including an online gallery of selected material, can be viewed on the spotlight page.

The collection consists of books, exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues and periodicals from the personal library of the art historian and critic Paul Oppé. Included are copies of Oppé’s own published works and material relating to his research interests including early British drawings and watercolours. The library spans a range of topics including artists’ biographies, practical works on colour and artistic technique, and works on aesthetics and the philosophy of art. The collection also includes around 170 early printed books and auction catalogues. Some of the books contain marginalia.

The collection was permanently allocated to the Paul Mellon Centre under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme in 2016.

The Centre also holds Paul Oppé’s archive.

Books on a bookshelf.

Books from the Paul Oppé library, 2016

Adolph Paul Oppé (1878–1957) was a British art historian, critic, art collector and museum official. Educated at New College, Oxford, he taught at both the University of St Andrews and Edinburgh (1902–5); worked as a civil servant at the Board of Education (1905–38); served as adviser (1906–7) and deputy director at the V&A (1910–13); and was elected as a fellow of the British Academy (1952). Oppé’s collection of over 3,000 drawings from the period 1750–1850 was acquired by the Tate in 1996. Oppé wrote many catalogues, articles and monographs on various artists, including Alexander Cozens, Francis Towne, William Hogarth and Paul Sandby. He also inaugurated the study of British drawings as a scholarly pursuit.