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R. B. Beckett English artist research files: Finding Aid
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: R. B. Beckett English artist research files
    Dates (inclusive): approximately 1880s-1967
    Bulk dates: late 1940s-early 1960s
    Collection Number: mssBeckett
    Creator: Beckett, R. B. (Ronald Brymer), 1891-1970
    Extent: 6.5 linear feet (16 boxes)
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains research files of English art historian R. B. Beckett (1891-1970), chiefly consisting of study photographs collected from the late 1940s to early 1960s documenting the works of John Constable and other English artists.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. R. B. Beckett English artist research files, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Acquired from R. B. Beckett in 1968. Transferred from the Huntington Art Library in 2005.

    Biographical Note

    Ronald Brymer Beckett (1891-1970) was an art historian and English administrator in India. Beckett was born in Yorkshire, England, on January 17, 1891, and studied at Lincoln College, Oxford, before joining the Indian Civil Service and serving in India until returning to England in 1917. In England, he joined the Middle Temple before returning to India in 1918, where he served as city magistrate of Amritsar before being transferred to other government positions. In 1946, Beckett retired from service in India and moved back to England where he studied English artists and published catalogues of the works of William Hogarth (1949) and Peter Lely (1951) and the edited correspondence of John Constable (London : H.M.S.O., 1962-1975), as well as Constable and the Fishers: the Record of a Friendship (1952). Beckett died on December 1, 1970.


    Beckett, Elisabeth. “Beckett, Ronald Brymer (1891–1970).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by David Cannadine. Oxford: OUP, 2004.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains research files of English art historian R. B. Beckett, chiefly consisting of study photographs and clippings collected from the late 1940s to early 1960s documenting the works of John Constable and other English artists including William Blake, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Rowlandson, J. M. W. Turner, and Richard Wilson. In addition there are also images and clippings related to English portraiture, as well as sporting and comic images.
    The artist research files contain study art photographs and clippings, with some occasional correspondence and notes by Beckett. Six artists (Blake, Constable, Gainsborough, Rowlandson, Turner, and Wilson) are distinguished as their own subseries, and their files typically contain study photographs, article clippings, some scattered manuscripts and correspondence, and exhibition catalogues. The largest of these are the John Constable files (Boxes 3-10), which includes seven boxes of study images organized into four groups: by county; by year; by subject; and portraits.
    Other art images in the collection are arranged either in the "Artists (various)" subseries (Box 13) or in the "Portrait artists" subseries (Boxes 14-15). In some cases, there may be images of works by the same artist in both of these subseries.
    The files generally retain Beckett's presumed original order, though some miscellaneous and loose images were reintegrated with similar images or included in various folders of "miscellaneous" materials. While some of the images are professional photographs acquired from museums, most of the images are clippings from British magazines such as The Connoisseur and Burlington. Most of the images are not annotated or only contain brief handwritten identifications typically of the artist, painting title, date, dimensions, etc.
    Overall there are very few manuscripts by Beckett in the collection. Exceptions consist of a sketchbook from the late 1920s containing pencil sketches of landscapes by Beckett and a few documents. The correspondence is chiefly from galleries, museums, and publishers related to Beckett's research and publications. Copies of seven published articles, chiefly related to Constable, by Beckett are included in Box 1, Folder 3.
    Within the collection there are also approximately 60 exhibition catalogs. Those related to Blake, Constable, Gainsborough, Rowlandson, Turner, and Wilson are filed within their subseries; approximately 15 additional miscellaneous exhibition catalogs are housed in box 16. The collection also includes ten travel maps for English areas (Box 1, Folders 5-6) and 5 printed volumes:
    • Charles Holme, ed. The Genius of J. M. W. Turner, R.A. (London ; New York, J. Lane, Offices of "The Studio", 1903) (Box 12, Folder 5)
    • Charles Holme, ed. Modern Etching and Engraving (London: Offices of "The Studio", 1902) (Box 16, Folder 7)
    • Charles Holme, ed. Modern Pen and Drawings: European and American (London: Offices of "The Studio", 1901) (Box 16, Folder 6)
    • Ralph Nevill. Old Sporting Prints (London: The Connoisseur Magazine, 1908) (Box 16, Folder 2)
    • Carl Winter. Elizabethan Miniatures (Penguin Books, 1949) (Box 15, Folder 7)


    The collection is arranged in the following series:
    • Beckett documents and travel ephemera (Box 1)
      • Sketchbook
      • Miscellaneous correspondence and documents
      • Published articles by Beckett
      • Travel maps and ephemera
    • Artist research files (Boxes 2-16)
      • William Blake (Box 2)
      • John Constable (Box 3-10)
      • Thomas Gainsborough (Box 11, Folders 1-4)
      • Thomas Rowlandson (Box 11, Folders 5-9)
      • J. M. W. Turner (Box 12, Folders 1-6)
      • Richard Wilson (Box 12, Folders 7-11)
      • Artists (various) (Box 13)
      • Portrait artists (Boxes 14-15)
      • Sporting and comic images (Box 16, Folders 1-2)
      • Exhibition catalogs and misc. printed volumes (Box 16, Folders 3-7)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Beckett, R. B. (Ronald Brymer), 1891-1970 -- Archives.
    Blake, William, 1757-1827.
    Blake, William, 1757-1827 -- Exhibitions.
    Constable, John, 1776-1837.
    Constable, John, 1776-1837 -- Exhibitions.
    Gainsborough, Thomas, 1727-1788.
    Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792.
    Rowlandson, Thomas, 1756-1827.
    Turner, J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William), 1775-1851.
    Turner, J. M. W. (Joseph Mallord William), 1775-1851 -- Exhibitions.
    Art, English.
    Artists -- England.
    Portrait painting, British.


    Exhibition catalogs -- Great Britain -- 20th century.
    Letters (correspondence) -- Great Britain -- 20th century.
    Photographs -- Great Britain -- 20th century.