Catalogue description National Gallery: Sir Martin Davies: papers

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Details of NG 33
Reference: NG 33
Title: National Gallery: Sir Martin Davies: papers

The papers in this series concern six different areas of Martin Davies' life: his gallery activities during wartime; his work on a variety of publications; his work with the Courtauld Institute; the Museums Association; the Council for Places of Worship and with the Reform Club. The main bulk of the papers concern Davies in his official role with each institution: there are no personal or family papers.

The papers include mostly correspondence and drafts of publications. There are also catalogues, minutes and photographic prints.

Date: 1939-1975

The papers have been arranged into sub-groups each representing a different area of Davies' life. They have been maintained (as far as possible) according to their original order.

Related material:

Twelve letters from Martin Davies to Bernard Berenson are held by the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence.

Held by: National Gallery Research Centre, not available at The National Archives
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English, French and German

Martin Davies, 1908-1975

Physical description: 43 file(s)
Access conditions: Open
Custodial history: These papers were collected together by Martin Davies on his retirement in 1973. They were later transferred to the National Gallery Archive (exact date unknown).
Administrative / biographical background:

Martin Davies was born in Cheyne Walk, London on 22 March 1908, the younger son of Ernest Woodbine Davies and Elizabeth Eleanor Davies. He attended Rugby School and went up to Cambridge in 1926 where he studied Mathematics and Modern Languages.

He joined the National Gallery as an honorary attache in October 1930 and became part of the institution's permanent staff on 1 January 1932 as an Assistant Keeper.

During the Second World War he played an essential role in protecting the National Gallery pictures and was effectively in charge of their safe storage at Manod Quarry in North Wales. Davies' war time duties provided him with an exceptional opportunity for close study of the National Gallery pictures and he began work on a series of catalogues which became renowned for their new approach to the study of pictures (where possible Davies referred to original source material).

Throughout his life Davies devoted a great deal of time towards research for various publications. He worked on a number of solo and joint ventures producing books, articles, monographs and reviews. Amongst others he published Les Primitifs Flamands - The National Gallery, London, Vol I, 1953, Vol II, 1954, Vol III, 1970; Les Primitifs Flamands - The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (with Ursula Hoff), 1971 and European Pictures in the Collection of the Worcester Art Museum (Italian School 1974).

In 1947 he became Deputy Keeper of the National Gallery and in 1960 (on the death of William Pettigrew Gibson) he became Keeper. On 1 January 1968 he became Director; a post he held until his retirement on 30 September 1973. Davies never married. He devoted his life to the National Gallery and other related causes. His social life - at least in later years - centred on the Reform Club, where he dined almost every evening. He was appointed CBE in 1965 and knighted in 1972.

Davies died of cancer in a London hospital on 7 March 1975.

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