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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‘A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints’ – A Review

‘A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints’ is an ambitious exhibition. It sets out to explore the complex issues of gender identity, social status and sexual relationships in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). It surpasses these objectives and provides a forum for discussion on gender identity and non-hetronorm ideologies. The exhibition’s title ‘A […]

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The Cabinet of Curiosities: Reflections on modern art historical thinking

Portrait of Elias Ashmole

If you, like me, are curious about cabinets of curiosity, the inaugural Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Lecture on the history of collecting was a key date. Given by esteemed art historian and authority on the history of collecting, Professor Paula Findlen, it was South Kensington’s hottest ticket. If you were disappointed not to get one, […]

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Regional Art Auction House Sale Catalogues in the National Art Library

The National Art Library collects catalogues from the world’s major auction houses as well as others that cover the collections of the V&A Museum. Art auction houses mirror the developments and trends in the art collecting world, changing focus, subjects, locations and identity. Sotheby’s Belgravia was opened to meet the demand for Victorian paintings and furniture […]

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Anatomy for artists: John Tinney, Stephen Francis Rigaud and one “R.H. Nash”

Following on from my earlier post about provenance, here is another volume with an interesting owner. The book is ‘A compendious treatise of anatomy’ by John Tinney (1706?-1761). As the full title makes clear, it was designed for the practising artist, providing just enough anatomy to give an understanding of the visible structure of the […]

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Sheila Hicks: Material Voices – A Review

Review of Sheila Hicks: Material Voices  exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada. This is a stunning exhibition, which plays with the themes of memory, contrast and space. Upon entering the exhibition the visitor is struck by the circular nature of the display space, which mirrors Sheila Hicks’s own cyclical treatment of her work. A video introduces […]

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On the naming of names: Samuel Alken and the acknowledgement of printmakers

Samuel Alken after John Smith. 'Pont-aberglaslyn'. Aquatint. Plate from: William Sotheby. 'A tour through parts of Wales: sonnets, odes, and other poems'

In my last post I introduced the printmaker Samuel Alken (1756-1815), and showed how his work, like that of many illustrators and printmakers, can be hidden in a library’s collection. One of the factors affecting whether a printmaker (or any other contributor) appears in a library catalogue is the prominence with which they are named in a […]

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Animating history

Fig.2. Groenmarkt, The Hague, ca.1860.

Fly through time and space with two new animated films from artist and V&A Museum photographer, George Eksts. The films provide spectacular and unfettered access into two 19th-century table-top tableau of a masquerade ball (Groot Gemaskerd Bal) and a food market (Groenmarkt), published by H.L. van Hoogstraten in The Hague, around 1860 (Museum No. Gestetner […]

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Priced Art Auction Catalogues in the National Art Library

The National Art Library is home to over 140,000 art auction catalogues from more than 200 art auction houses. It is the largest accessible collection of art auction catalogues in the world. Within this collection thirty per cent remain uncatalogued fully in the priced sequences of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Foster and Knight, Frank & Rutley. Priced […]

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Maria Graham: trailblazer and peepshow maker

Within the hundreds of captivating paper peepshows newly acquired by the National Art Library from the Gestetner Collection, there is one peepshow whose story and splendour, I feel, eclipses all the rest. Handmade and painted in watercolour, ‘View from L’Angostura de Paine in Chile’[i], ca.1835 (fig.1), is as intriguing as it is beautiful. This humble […]

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Standing tall: Size matters

A review of ‘Standing tall: The curious history of men in heels’ at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. Who would’ve thought that a few inches could be so significant, but in the case of men’s heels it appears that size really does matter. ‘Standing tall: The curious history of men in heels’ is a thought-provoking exhibition at the […]

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