Visit Collected Archives

The National Portrait Gallery has been collecting archives relating to British portrait artists, art historians of portraiture and significant portrait collections since 1860. There are over 50 Collected Archives which range from Charles Beale’s diary from the late seventeenth century charting his wife Mary Beale’s fortunes as a portrait artist to the late twentieth and early twenty first century papers associated with Lucian Freud and his family.

The collected archives are in the format of diaries, account books, sitter books, sketchbooks, correspondence and research papers. They provide insights into the studio practices of artists and the social, commercial and historical context within which they have worked. They can aid the identification of portraits, through records of sittings, receipts for payment, and inventories of studios. In some instances they contain the only surviving evidence of the existence of portraits that have disappeared, lost their identity or been destroyed.

Significant collections

Significant collections include papers relating to:

All Collected Archives are searchable via our archive catalogue, some have been catalogued in detail whilst all others have a summary description of contents. The Archive is planning to fully catalogue more Collected Archives to international archive standards, descriptions will be published via the Archive Catalogue once complete.

The Collected Archives are available to consult by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, a maximum of five files can be retrieved per visit. Please note that although the Collected Archives are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data, may be restricted under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

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