Research Collections

Collections Overview

The Centre collects archive material relating to the study of British art and architectural history. The collections contain the research papers of art historians, many of whom were pioneers in the formation of this discipline.

William Roberts

2 boxes inserts. The material in these sales catalogues is in the process of being catalogued. Please contact collections staff for more details. (Ref WR)

The archive comprises material gathered by William Roberts and pasted or filed into his collection of sale catalogues, which date from 1892-1940. The inserts are mostly newspaper cuttings, images and journal articles, with a small amount of correspondence. This added information most often relates to the outcome of the sales detailed in the catalogues but also provides information about the collections, collectors or individual lots of the particular sale. In some instances, Roberts also annotated the sale catalogues with names and prices. He continued to interleave relevant material into the catalogues retrospectively.

The sale catalogues - and therefore the inserts - relate both to sales at large auction houses (such as Sotheby's and Christie's), but also to more obscure regional auction houses. They are a useful resource for the study of provenance, collections and collectors at the beginning of the twentieth century until the start of the Second World War. 

Upon Roberts' death in 1940, the sale catalogues (and their inserts) were purchased by Ellis Waterhouse. Waterhouse brought the collection to the Paul Mellon Centre when he became Director in 1970. It was formally acquired by the Centre on his death in 1985. The sale catalogues now form part of the Paul Mellon Centre's Library; the inserts part of the Archive. The relationship between the two has been preserved and is referenced directly within the catalogues. 

William Roberts (1862-1940) was an art critic and art sales correspondent of the Times. He was a leading expert in the field of British Art and provided certificates of authenticity for eighteenth-century British pictures. He published books on George Romney (2 volumes, published in 1904), William Beechey (published in 1907) and John Hoppner (published in 1909).

Papers from the William Roberts archive

Papers from the William Roberts archive,