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Courtauld Institute of Art

BLUNT, Anthony Frederick (1907-1983)


Reference code(s): GB 1518 CI/AFB

Held at: Courtauld Institute of Art

Title: BLUNT, Anthony Frederick (1907-1983)

Date(s): [1930]-1972

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 55 boxes

Name of creator(s): Blunt | Anthony Frederick | 1907-1983 | art historian | spy


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born, 1907; educated at Marlborough College; studied mathematics and modern languages at Trinity College Cambridge, forming close friendships with Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, H A R `Kim' Philby; Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge, 1932-1937; invited to lecture at the Courtauld Institute by the director, W G Constable, on submission of his MA thesis, 1932; joined the staff of the Warburg Institute, 1937-1939; recruited by Guy Burgess into the Russian secret intelligence service; Reader in History of Art at London University; worked for MI5, and as an enemy agent for the Soviet Union, 1940-1945; Deputy Director, 1939-1947 and Director, 1947-1974, Courtauld Institute; Surveyor of the King's (later Queen's) Pictures, 1945-1972; knighted, 1956; unmasked as a spy by the FBI and secretly confessed, 1964; honorary fellowship Trinity College Cambridge, 1967; Adviser for the Queen's Pictures and Drawings, 1972-1978; researched and published on a wide range of topics, his special subject being Nicolas Poussin; publicly confirmed as a spy by the Prime Minister, knighthood and honorary fellowship annulled, 1979; died, 1983.
Publications: include: Artistic Theory in Italy 1450 to 1600 (Oxford University Press, 1940); François Mansart and the origins of French classical architecture (Warburg Institute, London, 1941); The French drawings in the collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle (Phaidon Press, 1945); The Nation's Pictures: a guide to the chief national and municipal picture galleries of England, Scotland and Wales joint editor with Margaret Whinney (Chatto & Windus, 1950); Art and Architecture in France 1500 to 1700 (Penguin, 1953); The Drawings of G.B. Castiglione and Stephano Della Bella in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (Phaidon Press, 1954); Venetian Drawings of the XVII and XVIII centuries in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle with Edward Croft-Murray (Phaidon Press, 1957); Philibert de l'Orme (Zwemmer, 1958); The Art of William Blake (Columbia University Press, 1959); Picasso, the formative years: a study of his sources with Phoebe Pool (Studio Books, London, 1962); Nicolas Poussin. Lettres et propos sur l'art. Textes réunis et presentes par Anthony Blunt (Hermann, Paris, [1964]); Picasso's "Guernica" (Oxford University Press, 1966); The paintings of Nicolas Poussin (London, Phaidon, [1966]); Nicolas Poussin with plates and illustrations 2 vol (Phaidon Press, London; Bollingen Series, New York, [1967]); The James A de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor General editor [A catalogue] (Fribourg, Aylesbury printed, 1967-); Sicilian Baroque (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968); Neapolitan Baroque and Rococo Architecture (Zwemmer, [1975]); Baroque and Rococo: Architecture and Decoration (Elek, 1978); Borromini (Allen Lane, London, 1979); The Drawings of Poussin (Yale University Press, 1979); Guide to Baroque Rome (Granada, London, 1982); Paul Fréart de Chantelou: Diary of the cavaliere Bernini's visit to France editor (Princeton University Press, 1985).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Anthony Blunt, 1700-1983, comprising papers relating to Nicolas Poussin, notably files relating to his paintings, drawings and engravings, arranged by subject categories and containing notes, correspondence, articles, sales catalogues and illustrations (photographs, colour transparencies, slides, photocopies, prints, lithographs, engravings) of the named picture, details of the picture, variant versions (usually copies after), and in many cases, plates printed for the Poussin catalogue raisonné, 1824-[1983]; notes and illustrations relating to comparative material relevant to Poussin, including sculpture, 1700-1972; works by the circle of Poussin, [1938-1983]; drawings by the Poussin 'school', [1966-1977]; copies of letters by Poussin, and related notes, including photographs of letters from the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, [1964-1967]; notes, transcripts and letters relating to sales of works; correspondence with colleagues relating to Poussin's paintings and drawings, [1940-1982], notably Denis Mahon, 1960-1962, Walter Friedlander, 1944-1966, Erwin Panofsky, 1960-1961; notebooks, [1962-1965] and loose notes relating to Poussin; correspondence with Elizabeth Mackenzie (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), 1962-1982; offprints of various authors relating to Poussin; miscellaneous material relating to Poussin, [1940-1982], including a photocopy of his will;
papers relating to French art, notably notes, photographs and articles relating to French paintings, sculpture and architecture of the 16th-19th centuries, [1938-1977]; typescripts, note and correspondence relating to Chantelou's diary, [1980-1983]; papers, articles and illustrations relating to a publication by Ronald Cohen concerning the Le Nain Brothers, [1982]; articles relating to the Louvre, [1978];
papers relating to Italian art, notably notes, illustrations and articles relating to Italian Baroque architecture and sculpture, [1953-1982]; Borromini, [1956-1980]; Pietro da Cortona, [1966-1982]; notes, plans, photographs and papers relating to buildings and sculpture in Naples [1954-1981]; notes relating to Palermo, [1967]; typescripts, photographs, notes, correspondence and reviews relating to Blunt's A Guide to Baroque Rome;
articles by Blunt concerning the Royal Collection, 1972, and colonial architecture; plans, photographs, notes and review relating to a catalogue of Waddesdon Manor, [1974-1982]; correspondence, 1970-1983, largely concerning paintings and publications; articles by various authors, 1975-1982; offprints by Blunt, [1932-1982]; newspaper cuttings, 1929-1983; correspondence with publishers, 1972-1983; photographs, correspondence and articles relating to Blunt's personal collection, [1960-1982]; personal papers, [1932-1978], including appointment diaries, 1972-1978; papers from Blunt's school and university days, 1919-1930, including notes, articles, school and university magazines; papers relating to a trip to Russia, comprising notes on paintings, drawings and architecture,1935, two guidebooks, 1931, 1934.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The Poussin files were arranged by Anthony Blunt by subject categories as in his book Nicolas Poussin. In general this means alphabetically, first by subject, and then by location. This arrangement has been maintained in listing the papers. The files not relating to Poussin have been divided largely between French and Italian subjects. A large quantity of miscellaneous material dating mainly from the last couple of years of Blunt's life was never sorted or filed by him due to his ill-health and sudden death.

Conditions governing access:

Initial applications should be made to the Deputy Librarian, Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R ORN. At least one week's notice is generally required for access to archival material.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Material may be photocopied subject to the approval of the Librarian or Archivist, and provided it does not breach the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1988.

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

A detailed catalogue is available in the Courtauld Institute Library. This includes a subject index, mainly the titles of works by Poussin or other artists, and a name index, including names of correspondents and artists.


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Correspondence with Lord Clark, 1943-1983, held at the Tate Gallery Archive (ref: 8812).

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Sources: Who's Who 1897-1996 (A & C Black, 1996); Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1995); Courtauld Institute of Art catalogue; British Library On-Line Public Access Catalogue 97; National Register of Archives. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions: General International Standard Archival Description (2nd edition); National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: December 2000

Art collections | Exhibitions
Art history | Art theory | Arts
Diaries | Nonfiction | Prose | Literary forms and genres | Literature
Engravings | Visual materials
European art | National art
Lithographs | Visual materials
Painters | Artists
Photographs | Visual materials
Sculptors | Artists
Primary documents

Personal names
Blunt | Anthony Frederick | 1907-1983 | art historian | spy
Friedlander | Walter | fl 1944-1966
Mackenzie | Elizabeth | fl 1962-1982
Mahon | Sir | John Denis | b 1910 | Knight | art historian
Panofsky | Erwin | 1892-1968 | American art historian
Poussin | Nicolas | 1594-1665 | French painter

Corporate names
Bibliothèque Nationale | French National Library
Courtauld Institute of Art

Naples | Italy | Western Europe | Europe
Palermo | Sicily | Italy | Western Europe | Europe
Russia | Eastern Europe
Crimea x Krym