TitleFrank H. Simpson Archive
Admin/Biog HistorySimpson, Frank (Francis) Henry (1911-2002).

There is little in the way of biographical information on Simpson. Correspondence in the archive indicates he may have gained employment in 1933 at The Courtauld Institute through his aunt Letitia Simpson (1884-1964), who was Librarian at M. Knoedler & Co.'s London office. They appear to have had a close relationship and she contacted the Librarian at The Courtauld to put her nephew forward for the role of Messenger/Office Boy there. Simpson was offered the job and given provision to attend lectures at a polytechnic by the Director, W.G. Constable (1887-1976) and, in 1934, he was appointed Library Clerk. In 1936, he married and in 1946, his son Michael was born. He also had a daughter Diana.

Simpson left The Courtauld in 1945 to take up the position of Librarian at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, under the Directorship of Sir Ellis Kirkham Waterhouse (1905-1985). Simpson remained there until 1958, when he took over his aunt's role as full-time Librarian at M. Knoedler & Co. Letitia Simpson, although retired, continued to work at the dealer's London office for a few hours each day until shortly before her death in 1964. Simpson remained at Knoedler's until 1971, when the firm was bought by Armand Hammer and the London office was closed.. Waterhouse had taken over as Director at the newly reconstituted Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in 1970, and in 1971 Simpson joined him there in the role of Librarian. For many years, Simpson had been interested in taste and the collecting of pictures in England in the 18th century, particularly from salerooms, and it is assumed it was this interest which prompted him to retain some of Knoedler's records when he left their employment. Simpson brought these Knoedler files with him when he took up post at the Paul Mellon Centre, including them in a newly created series of information files concerning Collections managed as part of the Centre's Library. He continued to pursue his interest in collections and collecting, adding to these records until his retirement from full-time employment in 1976. There is evidence that he continued with his research beyond this period.

Information about Simpson's initial employment at The Courtauld Institute can be found in Personal Material: Employment (FHS/5/2), and additional details were kindly provided by Antony Hopkins, Librarian, The Courtauld Institute from Annual Reports containing staff lists. Information about Simpson's employment at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, was kindly provided by Paul Spencer Longhurst.
DescriptionThe archive contains material compiled and created by Simpson throughout his working life, and the majority pertains to his own research on collecting and collections.

Although the records relating to all of the organisations Simpson worked for are of interest, those created and compiled by the London officer of the dealer's M. Knoedler & Company present an extremely rich resource for the study of provenance, collections and collecting. The focus is mainly on British Art, but also includes European Art and, as a significant proportion of these date to the 1920s, they reveal much about the disbanding of collections after the First World War.

As the material in this archive emanated from two sources, records left at the The Paul Mellon Centre and those left at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, very little of the original order remained. Therefore, during the process of cataloguing the two groups were integrated and the following was carried out:

-material has been arranged in chronological order of Simpson's employment, and sub-collections have been created for The Courtauld Institute of Art, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, M. Knoedler & Company, and The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
-within each of these sub-collections, the material has been sorted by themes and material types, for example Correspondence, Artists, Sitters, Collections, etc. Therefore, as Simpson repurposed records from different sources for his own research, some of M. Knoedler's records may be found in the Collection Files in the Paul Mellon Centre sub-collection.
-black and white photographs created in connection with the buying and selling of works of art have been integrated with relevant written records in the Artist and Sitter Files series within the M. Knoedler & Company sub-collection
-The Paul Mellon Centre's Library Collection files have been integrated with similar material found amongst the Simpson Archive

In order to avoid confusion caused by two individuals with the same surname, Frank Simpson is referred to as Simpson in the catalogue descriptions, whilst his aunt is referred to as Letitia Simpson.
Extent776 files; 4 boxes; 22 volumes
Related MaterialThe Getty Research Institute holds the Knoedler Gallery Archive


Image CaptionPhotograph of Frank Simpson in his office at the Barber Institute, dated c 1950s
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