Sir Frederic William Burton and the Rosebery Minute: the directorship of the National Gallery, London, in the late nineteenth century

Greer, Elena J. (2017) Sir Frederic William Burton and the Rosebery Minute: the directorship of the National Gallery, London, in the late nineteenth century. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines for the first time the role of Sir Frederic William Burton (1816-1900) as director of the National Gallery, London, during the period 1874 to 1894. I argue that his directorship is important because it was followed by the second major administrative re-organisation in the Gallery’s history, namely the Rosebery Minute of 1894, which significantly reduced the authority of the director in making acquisitions. This power had been bestowed upon the director in 1855 after an in-depth parliamentary Select Committee examining the running of the Gallery, which had established the post for the first time. My thesis seeks to determine to what extent and how Burton’s tenure prompted this major reassessment of the Gallery’s management structure. The enquiry addresses the question from a variety of perspectives including Burton’s acquisitions, the display of the collection, his attitude to the social function of the Gallery and the relationship of the Gallery authorities with government departments and individuals.

These topics are informed by a methodological approach that takes as its starting point the large volume of archival material and correspondence both at the National Gallery and in other gallery archives and libraries relating mainly to Burton and his trustees, chiefly Sir Austen Henry Layard and Sir William Gregory. Using these sources my thesis examines the background, interests, motivations and personal relationships of key individuals, assessing the impact of personal biography upon institutional history. The thesis also sets these case studies within the broader cultural context of the development of the discipline of the history of art and the challenges this posed to the identity of the Gallery. The final chapter reassesses the Rosebery Minute of 1894 in the light of this research, highlighting the importance of both a detailed ‘micro-historical’ approach and a broad contextualisation of developments at the National Gallery at the turn of the twentieth century.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Cullen, F.
Wood, J.R.
Keywords: National Gallery, Director, Directorship, Art museum, Curating, Government
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General). For photography, see TR
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 48057
Depositing User: Greer, Elena
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2017 08:24

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