The National Art Library

The National Art Library section brings you news about exciting new service developments, throws a spotlight on our collections, displays and research projects and provides information about electronic resources with ‘tips and wrinkles’ for making the most of them.

The National Art Library (NAL) is a reference library, open to all visitors. The collection covers the fine and decorative arts, design and art history and contains books, periodicals, auction sale catalogues, exhibition catalogues, electronic resources and other formats of material. Amongst the treasures are artists’ books, illustrated books, fine bindings and rare and unique manuscripts.

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Brachycombes by Geoge Brookshaw

Every Lady Her Own Drawing Master

One of the main pleasures of taking up a hobby is surely acquiring all the necessary equipment, preferably new, with everything matching and on a professional scale. Women taking up watercolour painting in 1797 obviously felt the same “Every lady who has a taste for painting, furnishes herself with a box of colours, probably eighteen, […]

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John Constable

Your Affectionate Father John Constable

In 1828 John Constable found himself a widower with seven young children. Apart from his own sorrow at the death of his beloved wife Maria, a blow from which he never really recovered, he must also have had to deal with the grief and loss faced by his offspring. As a comparatively well off single […]

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Boris Anrep's Scrapbook ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cocktails with Boris

When the mosaic floors at the National Gallery designed by Boris Anrep were completed in 1952 there was much excitement and extensive press coverage. A formal gathering at the Gallery was initially thought a fitting celebration but in the end it was left to Anrep’s friend Maud Russell to throw a party. The invitation list […]

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(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Tales from the Crypt

Beautiful, historic library interiors also mean historic library stores, and occasionally book storage areas will need some additional care and attention to ensure they continue to provide suitable storage for the future.  Unfortunately, of course, this can limit book availability for a period.  Some essential repair work is soon to take place in the National Art Library Crypt […]

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(c) Victoria & Albert Museum

I’m Sure I’ve Seen that Library Before…

Those of you who have used the National Art Library’s reading rooms, or who may even be sitting in them as you read this, will not have failed to notice how beautiful they are.  Built between 1876 and 1884, the reading rooms were one of the show cases of the South Kensington Museum (now V&A), […]

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Rose Frain's studio

Rose Frain’s installation This Time in History, What Escapes (2014-1914)

This Time in History is my overall, continuing art project, so when Elizabeth James, Senior Librarian at the V&A National Art Library invited me to create a small installation to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War, I was delighted. A very exciting remit: in the two vitrines on the Library […]

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V&A Illustration Award winners, 2014,

V&A Illustration Awards Open for Submissions

We are pleased to announce that the online entry system for the 2015 V&A Illustration Awards is now open. The Awards have been running since 1972 and aim to celebrate the best in published and student illustration from this year. If you are a professional illustrator either living in the UK or publishing work here […]

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How to dress like a lady

‘How to dress on £15 a year as a lady by a lady’ was published by Frederick Warne in 1873. It was one of series of pocket sized “Useful Books” and cost a shilling. In the introduction, a Lady, actually Millicent Whiteside Cook, author of several books on economy, has no illusions about her work […]

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Survey created using SurveyMonkey

The results are in…

  We would like to thank all of the hundreds of people who completed the National Art Library’s recent user satisfaction survey. Each year there are around 35,000 visits to our Library, while many more people use our online services including making enquiries, placing copying orders, consulting subject guides and looking at ebooks. The information gained from […]

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Boy learning his leassons Christoher and Clementina Smyth

A Voyage to Egypt

What excitement there must have been when the Reverend Christopher Smyth and his wife Clementina left the quiet parish of Woodford, Northamptonshire for an epic journey to Egypt in 1862, with a promise of regular letters home for the village children. It is not hard to imagine how they and probably many adults too would […]

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