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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Duveen Brothers records
    Date (inclusive): 1876-1981 (bulk 1909-1964)
    Number: 960015
    Creator/Collector: Duveen Brothers
    Physical Description: 394 Linear Feet (584 boxes, 18 flat file folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Notable art dealers from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The records provide a detailed view of the Duveen Brothers business activities in London, Paris, and New York. Although the archive extends from 1876 to 1981, the bulk of the material dates from Joseph Duveen's tenure as president of the firm, 1909-1939, and the period 1939-1964 when Edward Fowles directed the firm (with Armand Lowengard until 1943). The mass of documents, such as cables and letters, invoices, and ledger and stock books, give a day-by-day account of art dealing, business strategy, and the individuals involved. Included are some records from the Kleinberger Galleries, 1906-1971, and 6 linear feet of Edward Fowles's papers.
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    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Duveen Brothers, notable art dealers in London, Paris, and New York from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, brought to America high quality old master paintings and decorative arts from the great private collections in Europe. Under the guidance of Joseph Duveen (1869-1939) and assisted by art experts, most notably Bernard Berenson, the Duveen Brothers monopolized the American art market for five decades. Duveen Brothers helped to form the art collections of many extremely wealthy Americans. A number of these collections became the nuclei of U.S. museums such as the Frick Collection, the Huntington Art Collections and the National Gallery of Art.
    The Duveen Brothers business began when Joseph Joel Duveen (1843-1908) and his younger brother, Henry J. Duveen (1855-1918), left their home in Meppel, Holland for Hull, England. They specialized in selling delftware from their native Holland and later branched out to include Chinese porcelain, tapestries, furniture, and old master paintings. The Duveens opened a London office in 1879; a New York office followed in 1886. In 1897 the firm closed a temporary shop located on the rue de la Paix in Paris and reopened a grander store on the Place Vendôme, later referred to as the "Little Palace." By this time Duveen Brothers was purchasing important paintings, including acquisitions from the Mulgrave Castle sale of 1890 and the Murrieta sale of 1892.
    Shortly after Henry J. Duveen arrived in New York to head the office there, his brother Joseph Joel sent his son Joseph (later Sir Joseph of Millbank, also known as Joe or just Duveen) to assist his uncle Henry. By the 1880s Henry had developed a clientele of American millionaires whose wealth in those years was without precedent. Joseph became more active in the management of the New York house, took over its operations in 1907, and served as president of the firm between 1909 and 1939. One of the first changes Joseph Duveen made was to move the New York house to a more highly visible location on Fifth Avenue. He transformed the Duveen show rooms, displaying art with dramatic lighting in lavish surroundings. He made grand gestures to persuade prospective clients, as, for example, when he had an elaborate plaster model of Senator Clark's Fifth Avenue mansion constructed (at the cost of $20,000) to entice the Senator to hire Duveen Brothers to furnish it.
    While in New York Joseph made a number of bold purchases on behalf of Duveen Brothers. In 1906 he acquired three large collections: the Rodolfe Kann collection, the Maurice Kann collection, and the Hainauer collection. In 1927 he bought the Robert H. Benson collection of 114 Italian paintings in England and three years later he purchased the Dreyfus collection of Italian paintings and sculpture in Paris. Joseph sold selections from the Dreyfus collection to Andrew Mellon and Samuel H. Kress; these items formed the core of the National Gallery collections in Washington, D.C. As late as 1939, the year of his death, Joseph was still selling paintings and sculpture from these purchases.
    As president of Duveen Brothers, Joseph developed with a number of clients extremely close ties that went beyond influencing their art-buying habits. He arranged travel plans for his important clients, designed their table settings, and stored their preferred cigars in the Duveen Brothers' vaults. Joseph Duveen was actively involved in numerous art organizations and served as a trustee for the National Gallery, London; the Wallace Collection; and the Imperial Gallery of Art, London. He was a member of the Council of the British School at Rome and of the National Art Collections Fund. Joseph founded the British Artists Exhibitions Organization for the encouragement of lesser known British artists. He provided for additions to and extensions of London museums, such as the Tate Gallery (a new building of several galleries for modern foreign art, works by Sargent, and modern foreign sculpture), the National Gallery (a new building), the National Portrait Gallery (a new building of several galleries), London University, and the British Museum (a new building for the housing of the Elgin marbles and Nereid statues). In 1930 he wrote Thirty Years of British Art .
    The Duveen Brothers' business began to decline after Joseph's death in 1939, at which time Armand Lowengard (Joseph Duveen's nephew) and Edward Fowles became joint owners of the firm. When Lowengard died in 1943, Edward Fowles assumed the presidency of Duveen Brothers. The Nazi occupation of France forced Duveen Brothers to evacuate Paris. The London office closed shortly thereafter. After the war Duveen Brothers had a number of notable clients, such as Henry Ford II and Robert Lehman, but the business never regained its former vibrancy. In 1964 Edward Fowles sold Duveen Brothers to Norton Simon, including the East 79th Street mansion and all remaining stock (excluding the business records). Edward Fowles served as a consultant to the Norton Simon Foundation and, in 1968, donated his papers and the Duveen Brothers business records to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they were housed until 1996. In 1969 the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute purchased the Duveen library of books, periodicals, exhibition catalogues, and sales catalogues, along with a portion of the Duveen Brothers business records that was interfiled with the library and remains at the Clark. In 1996 the Metropolitan Museum of Art donated the Duveen archive to the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute.

    Administrative Information


    A microfilm copy (422 reels) of the archive is open for use by qualified researchers. The original papers are restricted because they are brittle and fragile. Additional microfilm copies of the archive have been deposited at the Thomas J. Watson Library of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Witt Library of the Courtauld Institute in London, and at the Institute national d'histoire de l'art in Paris.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Duveen Brothers Records, 1876-1981, bulk 1909-1964, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 960015.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.

    Processing History

    The Photography Studio of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in particular, Arvia Higgins and Nora Kennedy) cleaned, conserved, re-housed, and indexed the Duveen negatives, 1993-ca. 1996, prior to shipping the archive to the Getty.
    At the Getty Research Library, Lynn Tapia and J. Gibbs performed initial unpacking and re-housing, and made a preliminary box list, May - June 1996.
    The following people processed the collection between 1996 and 2002: Julie Rosenberg, Vladimira Stefura, Teresa Morales, Jenny Vasquez, Trevor Bond, Courtney Booker, Ted Walbye, Jan Bender and J. Gibbs.
    Teresa Morales arranged most of the archive and created a draft finding aid, between August 1997-July 1998.
    The archive was microfilmed by the Microfilm Unit of the Southern Regional Library Facility, UCLA, between April 1999 and May 2002.
    Karen Meyer-Roux edited and revised the finding aid in July and August 2014, February and March 2015.

    Digitized Material

    The collection, with the exception of Series III., was digitized between 2011-2014 under the auspices of the Kress Foundation: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/960015 

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Duveen Brothers archive,1876-1981, contains the business records for Duveen Brothers offices in New York, London, and Paris in ca. 394 linear feet (585 boxes, 18 flat file folders, ca. 2,000 negatives). It includes ledgers, sales books, stock reports, inventories, invoices, correspondence (letters and cables), manuscripts, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, X rays of paintings, acetate and glass plate negatives.
    Also included in the archive are two related groups of records. The Edward Fowles papers, 1917-1981 (6 linear ft.), primarily date from his period in the Paris office of Duveen, but include some personal papers, particularly related to his memoir about Duveen Brothers. Kleinberger & Co., Inc. records, 1906-1971 (9 linear ft.), comprise correspondence with clients and other dealers, and include a small number of personal papers of Harry G. Sperling, president of Kleinberger Galleries.
    The bulk of the Duveen records dates from Joseph Duveen's tenure as president of the firm, between 1909-1939, with relatively full coverage through Edward Fowles's tenure until 1964. The collection extensively documents the Duveen Brothers firm. The mass of detailed records, such as cables, letters, and invoices, provide a day-by-day account of art dealing, business strategy, and the individuals involved. The correspondence in particular highlights the relationships between employees of the Duveen Brothers, (e.g., Henry, Edward, and Joseph Duveen, Edward Fowles, Armand Lowengard, and Bertram Boggis) and clients, museum directors, curators, art historians, art dealers, restorers, scouts, and other consultants. The correspondence between the Duveen branches is voluminous and revealing of the strategies employed in buying and selling art. Much of the correspondence is in carbon copies with smaller amounts of original materials.
    Extensive correspondence, as well as stock books, sales books, and invoices trace the movement of paintings, sculpture, and European and Asian decorative arts bought and sold through the firm. Correspondence with and about owners and collectors concerns offers, sales, and purchases, predominately of Italian and English old masters, for such clients as J.S. Bache, H.C. Frick, J.P. Morgan, H.E. Huntington, S.H. Kress, E.T. Stotesbury, and A. Mellon, to name just a few. Twelve boxes (6 lin.ft.) hold correspondence between Bernard Berenson and Duveen Brothers staff. Many letters document the correspondence with other scholars, such as Wilhelm von Bode, Max Friedländer, L. Venturi, Leo Planiscig, George Swarzenski, W.R. Valentiner, upon whom Duveen Brothers relied for expert opinions. Also included are records of lawsuits (Hahn vs. Duveen; Hamilton vs. Duveen). Nearly 2,000 negatives, ca. 100 X rays of paintings, and ca. 1,000 photographs (some annotated by Berenson and other art experts) document stock handled by the firm.
    Not included in the archive, but retained by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are the bound X book (1910-1927), that documents the paintings authenticated by Bernard Berenson and sold by Duveen, and 10 client summary books (1894-1959) that record specific sales to clients. Also at the Metropolitan Museum are some 20 binders of photographs printed from the negatives in the archive. The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute holds approximately 240 cubic feet of Duveen records, along with the Duveen library of books and catalogues, many of them annotated.
    Between 1999 and 2002 the Duveen archive was microfilmed by the SRLF Preservation Microfilming Service at UCLA for the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute. Also microfilmed were the X book and client summary notebooks owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Microfilm reel numbers are noted in the Container list, below.

    Arrangement note

    The collection is organized in 5 series: Series I. Business records, 1876-1964; Series II. Papers and correspondence, 1901-1981; Series III. Photographs, indices, negatives, and X rays; Series IV. Double oversize materials from Series II; Series V. Duveen records at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Widener, Joseph E. (Joseph Early)
    Vermeer, Johannes
    Velázquez, Diego
    Van Dyck, Anthony, Sir
    Stotesbury, Edward Townsend
    Romney, George
    Simon, Norton
    Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
    Reynolds, Joshua, Sir
    Raeburn, Henry, Sir
    Morgan, J. P. (John Pierpont)
    Mellon, Andrew W. (Andrew William)
    Memling, Hans
    Kress, Samuel H. (Samuel Henry)
    Lotto, Lorenzo
    Bellini, Giovanni
    Bache, Jules S. (Jules Semon)
    Hoppner, James
    Holbein, Hans
    Huntington, Henry Edwards
    Houdon, Jean Antoine
    Kann, Maurice
    Kahn, Otto Hermann
    Kann, Rodolphe
    Goya, Francisco
    Gulbenkian, Calouste Sarkis
    Hals, Frans
    Hainauer, Oscar
    David, Gérard
    Dreyfus, Gustave
    Frick, Henry Clay
    Benson, Robert
    Berenson, Bernard
    Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976
    Botticelli, Sandro
    Constable, John

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Wildenstein and Company (New York, N.Y.)
    F. Kleinberger Galleries (New York, N.Y.)

    Subjects - Topics

    Art dealers -- France
    Art dealers -- United States
    Art -- Private collections
    Collectors and collecting
    Tapestry -- Collectors and collecting
    Art -- Exhibitions
    Art -- Expertising
    Art dealers -- Great Britain
    Sculpture, European -- Collectors and collecting
    Rugs -- Collectors and collecting
    Drawing, European -- Collectors and collecting
    Decorative arts -- Collectors and collecting
    Porcelain -- Collectors and collecting
    Painting, European -- Collectors and collecting

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographic prints
    Ledgers (account books)
    Black-and-white negatives
    X rays
    Stats (copies)


    Valentiner, Wilhelm Reinhold
    Thos. Agnew and Sons Ltd.
    Swarzenski, Georg
    Planiscig, Leo
    Berenson, Bernard
    F. Kleinberger Galleries (New York, N.Y.)
    Friedländer, Max J.
    Douglas, R. Langton (Robert Langton)
    Duveen, Joseph Duveen, Baron
    Duveen Brothers
    Duveen, Henry J.
    Fowles, Edward
    Birley, Oswald
    Bode, Wilhelm von
    Brockwell, Maurice Walter