Agnew’s and Duveen: Seminar in Collecting and Display, London, 14 May 2018

The truth about Agnew’s and Duveen (1900-1930)
Barbara Pezzini

Monday, 14th May at 6pm

Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet St London, WC1E 7HU
Pollard Seminar Room, N301, Third Floor

Major private and public collections worldwide – such as the London National Gallery, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Washington National Gallery of Art – contain a wealth of pictures from the stock of art dealers Agnew’s and Duveen. Often works were purchased from one firm to the other or even held in joint stock. Famous pictures of shared provenance include Philip IV by Diego Velázquez (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Man with a Falcon by Titian (Omaha Museum of Art), and Portrait of James Christie by Thomas Gainsborough (Getty Museum, Los Angeles). Both Agnew’s and Duveen managed a conspicuous flow of works of art from London towards collectors in the United States, and both firms dealt in the same sectors of the art market: European old-masters and British eighteenth century portraits.
The relationship between the two firms, however, has so far remained largely unexplored. Were Agnew’s and Duveen ‘friends’ or ‘enemies’, allies or opponents? Using hitherto unexplored primary sources from the Agnew’s archive at the National Gallery and the Duveen archive at the Getty Research Center, the paper will examine this question and present the origins and development of their relationship from 1900 to 1930. Agnew’s and Duveen’s rapport changed dramatically in these thirty years. In the early 1900s, when the newcomer Duveen captured the trust of the more senior Agnew’s, there was a respectful competition which evolved into a collaboration in the course of the 1910s. But in the 1920s Duveen’s attempted, in covert and not so covert manners, to annihilate Agnew’s, and this paper will investigate Duveen’s offensive strategies and Agnew’s coping mechanisms. In addition, and crucially for a seminar dedicated to collecting and display, this paper will focus on the relationship that both dealers fostered with public and private collectors, as it was essential to the survival, and instrumental to the demise, of their firms.
Barbara Pezzini is a London-based art and cultural historian with a wide range of publications on the art market, including reconstructions of fin-de siècle exhibitions of British painting, the Futurist shows in London, the relationship between dealers and scholars in the early twentieth century and their interactions with the art press. She is particularly interested in the study of the intersection of the art market with art criticism and art practice and how these are reflected in art prices. Barbara is the recipient of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award between the National Gallery and the University of Manchester to study the relationship between the National Gallery and Agnew’s (1850-1950) and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Visual Resources. She is also part of a joint National Gallery/King’s College London project on (re)presenting data from the stock books of the dealers Thos. Agnew & Sons.

SEM: The Politics of Public Collecting (London, 26 March, 2018)

The Politics of Public Collecting: William Gladstone and the National Gallery

Seminar in the History of Collecting
The Wallace Collection
26 March 2018
5.30 pm

 Lecture by Dr. Barbara Pezzini (Editor-in-chief, Visual Resources)

Admission is free, booking is not required

Prime Minister William Gladstone had an extraordinary impact on the visual arts inBritain. The subject of many portraits and cartoons and a voracious private collector himself, Gladstone also greatly influenced public collecting. This paper focuses on 1884, when Gladstone took a crucial role in the National Gallery purchase of the Ansidei Madonna by Raphael and the Equestrian Portrait of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck from the Duke of Marlborough’s collection. This paper uses hitherto unexplored documents from the Agnew’s, Gladstone, British Library and National Gallery archives to reconstruct the political and commercial networks that made this purchase possible. Continue reading “SEM: The Politics of Public Collecting (London, 26 March, 2018)”

CFP: Writing Impressionism Into and Out of Art History (London, 3-4 Nov 17)


A man and woman walking under an umbrella in a Paris road, other walkers-by; costumes of ca. 1877.
Gustave Caillebotte – Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877; Art Institute of Chicago

London, The Courtauld Institute of Art, November 3 – 04, 2017
Deadline: Feb 1, 2017


Impressionism continues to be celebrated in blockbuster exhibitions worldwide: in the last few years alone, Impressionism, Fashion, Modernity (Art Institute of Chicago, Musée d’Orsay, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013); Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye (Kimbell Art Museum and National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2015-2016); and Inventing Impressionism: Paul Durand-Ruel and the Modern Art Market (Musée du Luxembourg, National Gallery, London, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2015). Since 1878 when Théodore Duret published his Histoire des peintres impressionnistes, Impressionism has occupied a central place in the canon of art history. That place now seems to be called into question, however. New transnational approaches to nineteenth-century art history have troubled the perpetuation of Francocentric histories. As the field’s attention has increasingly turned to places outside France—Britain, the United States, Australia, and beyond—Impressionism has been pushed to the margins. Though Impressionism has long benefited from powerful and compelling narratives via the social history of art, these readings have been worked through so extensively that it warrants asking whether this area of art history may be exhausted for the moment.

Continue reading “CFP: Writing Impressionism Into and Out of Art History (London, 3-4 Nov 17)”

Lecture by Barbara Pezzini on: The mysterious sale of Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’, London (Dec 5, 2016)


Reclining Nude rests on her right arm and looks into a mirror held by a putto
Diego Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus (The Rokeby Venus)

National Gallery London, Sainsbury Wing Theatre

December 5th, 2016, 1 – 1.45 pm

Admission free

When the painting appeared for sale at art dealers Agnew’s in November 1905, many believed it should be purchased for the nation, yet the high price was beyond the National Gallery’s resources. But the newly founded National Art Collection Fund launched a public appeal to gather the sum required for its purchase. There followed three intense months in which dealers, scholars, art benefactors, museum visitors and even royalty attempted to raise the necessary funds.

Barbara Pezzini is an art historian who has published widely on the art market and its significance for the history of art, and is currently researching London art dealers Agnew’s and their relationship with the National Gallery. She is a Founding member of TIAMSA.