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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): COL/LBD/AG
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1670-1965
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 0.01 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Corporation of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The early growth of the art collection belonging to the Corporation of London was linked to the ceremonial functions of the City. In 1670 the Corporation commissioned portraits of the Chief Judges of England who assessed property claims after the Great Fire in 1666. Portraits of the Royal family and City officials followed. In 1783 a more ambitious project was commissioned, a canvas 18x24 feet in size showing the British garrison at Gibraltar resisting a Spanish and French siege. Ten years later the first gift to the collection came from Alderman John Boydell, who donated 24 oil paintings to the Corporation, including portraits, narrative works and paintings of mayoralty ceremonies. By 1872 the collection numbered over 180 items and it was realised that the collection had a size and importance on a national level that made care and maintenance important. In 1879 the works were placed in the care of a Curator and exhibitions were held in Skinners' Hall. The popularity of these exhibitions led the Corporation to make the disused Law Courts at the Guildhall into a permanent exhibition space. The Guildhall Art Gallery was opened in 1886 and was enlarged in 1890 and 1901. By 1910 the Gallery held 891 items, and in addition the Corporation had voted to provide a purchase fund so that the Gallery could actively acquire pieces rather than wait for donations.

In 1941 the Gallery was destroyed in an air raid. Most of the collection had been sent to safe storage in the countryside, but some works were lost. A temporary structure was established although this was too small to display much of the collection and was used for short-term exhibitions. Other paintings were displayed in Corporation buildings such as Mansion House and the Central Criminal Court. A semi-permanent exhibition was established in the new Barbican Art Gallery during the 1980s. As early as 1963 plans had been made to rebuild a permanent gallery next to the Guildhall but financial restrictions meant that the new gallery was not completed until 1999. The Gallery now displays around 250 paintings in its permanent display and mounts temporary exhibitions on a variety of topics and themes. The Roman amphitheatre discovered on the site during the building works is incorporated into the Art Gallery building and can be viewed there.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Guildhall Art Gallery, comprising memorandum on the establishment of the Guildhall Art Gallery and the appointment of a Director, 1944; article The Corporation's Picture Collection and the Guildhall Art Gallery, 1965; extracts relating to the portraits of the Fire Judges, 1670-1705, and reports on the restoration of the portraits, 1945; Chamber vouchers, orders for payment and receipts for drawing, framing, setting up, inscribing and decorating the Fire Judges portraits, 1671 and order for payment for painting the pictures of the King and the Duke of York, 1672.

The City of London's first commissions were portraits of the judges appointed to assess property claims in the wake of the Great Fire of London - the so-called 'Fire Judges'. These were followed by portraits of kings and queens and of other individuals who had rendered a service which the City of London wished to recognise.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In sections according to catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Corporation of London Records Office

Allied Materials

Related material:

For Corporation of London records relating to museums, libraries and art galleries, see: CLA/076: Museum of London, COL/AC: Archives, COL/CC/BRA: Barbican Arts Centre Joint Working Party (Arts Centre), COL/CC/BRC: Barbican Centre Committee, COL/CC/GHY: Guildhall Yard East Building Committee, COL/CC/LIB: Libraries, Guildhall Art Gallery and Archives Committee, COL/CC/LMC: Library and Museum Committee, COL/CC/MLB: Museum of London Board of Governors, COL/LBD/AD: Libraries and Art Galleries: Administration, COL/LBD/AG: Libraries and Art Galleries: Guildhall Art Gallery, COL/LBD/GHL: Libraries and Art Galleries: Guildhall Library and COL/LBD/MUS: Libraries and Art Galleries: Guildhall Museum.

Publication note:

See Guildhall Art Gallery: General Guide (London: Guildhall Art Gallery, 2005) or The City's Pictures: a selection of paintings from the collection of the Corporation of London (Barbican Art Gallery catalogue, 1984).

Also Guildhall Memories by A G Temple (1916), the first director of the art gallery.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

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