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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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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A New Line from South Kensington to Bexhill on Sea

Some exhibitions really do stem from a casual chat between curators over drinks. About a year ago, a curator from the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill on the south coast was talking about their plans to celebrate their iconic 1930s Modernist building to an NAL curator. Our curator mentioned a collection of material in […]

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Christmas at the National Art Library

The V&A is a wonderful place to visit at Christmas, with lots of festive displays, activities, and events for all!  One display that has just opened is Season’s Greetings: Victorian Christmas cards in Room 108, which features amongst other items the ‘first Christmas card’ commissioned by Henry Cole and designed by the artist John Callcott […]

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Alken, Alkin and the invisible plates: documenting illustration in the library catalogue

Whilst consulting William Gilpin’s ‘Remarks on forest scenery’, I noticed this statement in the list of plates: “Of these drawings all the landscape-part, which I hope the public will think with me is very masterly, was executed by Mr. Alkin”. The landscape illustrations are unsigned aquatints. I had recently been cataloguing William Maton’s ‘Observations relative […]

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New Peepshow Discoveries Come to Light

A Guest Post from Marie-Alix de Cools in Book Conservation The V&A recently received a wonderful collection of nearly 400 paper peepshows and other optical devices, a collection which had been assembled over a period of 30 years by Jacqueline and Jonathan Gestetner (see recent blog post on this topic).           During my internship in […]

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