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Researching the Society's early history

Updated: Dec 12, 2023


The Paul Mellon Centre in London has an archive specialising in the papers of art historians who studied British art, and among their richest holdings are the papers of Paul Oppé (1878-1957). Oppé was a founder committee member of The Walpole Society, whose published contributions to our annual Volume helped to reshape our understanding of the 18th century watercolour.


As part of its work to understand the 20th century historiography of British art history, and to showcase the research potential of its Oppé archive, the Paul Mellon Centre recently organised a two-day conference, The Practice of Art History in Britain, 1900-60: Paul Oppé's Art Worlds (30 Nov-1 Dec 2023). To accompany the event, the Centre also put on a display of Oppé's archive which was accompanied by a booklet about Oppé's life and papers, which can be read here: https://issuu.com/paulmelloncentre/docs/drd_oppe_booklet-digital_accessible


The Societys' current editor, Richard Stephens, gave a talk at this conference about the Society's foundation and first half century, 1911-1960. The Walpole Society's history remains unwritten and, unfortunately, there is no archive covering this early period in its history to draw on. However, there is much useful data in early published membership lists and in the published writings, surviving papers and obituaries of the Society's officers – including the Paul Oppé archive. The early 1900s were a dynamic and developing period for the practice of art history. The Society's foundation was one of several developments, including the creation of the Witt Library and cataloguing the Turner Bequest and other museum holdings, that transformed opportunities to study – and our understanding of – Britain's art historical past.


The talk was filmed and will be published on youtube in due course; and we hope to work up a written version of it for our website too.


If anyone has information about the Society's history that they could share, they are warmly encouraged to contact the editor editor@walpolesociety.org.uk .






Image:

Walter Stoneman, for James Russell & Sons

Charles Holmes, circa 1916 [founding Walpole Society committee member]

Bromide print

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