TitleJohn Sunderland Archive
Admin/Biog HistoryJohn Norman Sunderland was born in 1942 in Shepperton-on-Thames, Surrey. He was one of three children, his father was a businessman and his mother was a teacher. He was educated at Bradfield college, Berkshire before going to Lincoln College, Oxford to read modern history. By the early 1960s, Sunderland worked toward developing a career in art history. From 1963-65, he took a post graduate diploma in the History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. A year after graduation he started working at the Courtauld's Witt Library, where he became the Witt Librarian a post he held until his retirement in 2002.

Sunderland worked briefly at the Burlington Magazine in the early 1960s. In this early period, he also wrote and published short, introductory works on Chardin (1966), Constable (1970) and Watteau (1971), and began to develop his lifelong interest in 18th century art, and in particular the artist John Hamiliton Mortimer. By the mid-1970s, he had published at least six articles on the artist.

In 1971, he began a PhD at the Courtauld under the supervision of Michael Kitson. He completed the first year before deciding to pursue other projects. During this time, Sunderland assisted with Kitson's exhibition of Salvator Rosa at the Hayward Gallery, London, which ran from 17 October - 23 December 1973. Sunderland contributed by providing catalogue entries in the accompanying publication for artists influenced by Rosa from the 18th and 19th centuries, including works by Mortimer. The previous year he had selected works by Thomas Gainsborough, Benjamin West and Richard Westall for a British Council exhibition on British Romantic painters held in Paris in 1972. Throughout his career, Sunderland contributed to other exhibitions, most notably providing text and giving a lecture for the Courtauld's 2001-2002 exhibition, Art on the Line: the Royal Academy exhibitions at Somerset House 1780-1836. He also lectured frequently throughout his career on key artists, such as Gainsborough and William Hogarth, as well as general broadly thematic topics connected to European 18th century painting. These lectures were often given publicly at the Courtauld Institute, primarily, but Sunderland also gave guest lectures on undergraduate courses.

While continuing to publish articles in the Burlington through the 1970s, now almost exclusively on Mortimer, Sunderland also completed a survey study of British painting in 1976 (Sunderland, J. (1976) Painting in Britain, 1525 to 1975. Oxford: Phaidon Press) [a copy is available in the Paul Mellon Centre Library see URL below]. Throughout his career, he also wrote several introductory texts for more widely-distributed periodicals on major artists such as Hogarth. He was also invited to contribute dictionary entries for similarly generalist publications, such as the Larousse Dictionary of Painters. This work appears to have been carried out with the same meticulous approach as his other research projects.

Throughout his career, however, Sunderland's main focus stayed with Mortimer. In an application for research funding submitted to the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in 1978 (see JNS/1/5), he wrote that he was 'particularly interested in his [Mortimer's] drawing style, the sources of this style, his influence on contemporary draughtsmen and younger artists, and his art seen in the context of the work of his contemporaries such as Barry, Romney and Fuseli.'

Sunderland built upon the work of previous Mortimer scholars, Lionel Benedict Nicolson (1914-1978) and Gilbert Benthall (1880-1961), both of whose research notes he had inherited from Nicolson in the late 1960s. Sunderland's work culminated in the publication of a catalogue raisonné: Sunderland, J. (1988) John Hamilton Mortimer : his life and works. London: Walpole Society. (Walpole Society, 52), which was published with assistance from the Paul Mellon Foundation. The work was initially presented as a special issue of the journal, and eventually a volume in its own right in 1988. As a result of this publication, Sunderland became and remained one of Britain's leading authorities on the works of Mortimer.

In the latter part of his career at the Witt Library Sunderland worked on the Witt Library Computer Index, developing an interest in the use of computer technologies in the study of art history. He published various articles on this subject and, during the 1990s, was the editor for the journal of CHArt (Computers and the History of Art). After he retired, he began the study of archeaology at Birkbeck, which he pursued for a brief period of time. He was also a keen watercolour artist. His family created a website dedicated to his own artwork, which can be accessed at the below URL.

Selected bibliography:

Sunderland, J. (1966) The Masters 56: J.B.S. Chardin. London: Purnell.
Sunderland, J. (1969) Mortimer's Self-Portrait 'in Character'. The Burlington Magazine, 111(797), 518-521.
Sunderland, J. (1969) The Witt Library. The Burlington Magazine,111(798), 566-566.
Sunderland, J. (1970) John Hamilton Mortimer and Salvator Rosa. The Burlington Magazine, 112(809), 520-531.
Sunderland, J. (1971) Uvedale Price and the Picturesque. Apollo, 93(109), 197-203
Sunderland, J. (1971) Constable. London : Phaidon.
Sunderland, J. (1971) Introduction: The complete paintings of Watteau. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Sunderland, J. (1973) The Legend and Influence of Salvator Rosa in England in the Eighteenth Century. The Burlington Magazine, 115(849), 785-789.
Sunderland, J. (1973) 'Works by other artists' in Salvatore Rosa: Hayward Gallery, London, 17 Ocotober-23 December 1973, exhibition catalogue. Arts Council.
Sunderland, J. (1974) Mortimer Drawings. The Burlington Magazine, 116(851), 108-111.
Sunderland, J. (1974) Mortimer, Pine and Some Political Aspects of English History Painting. The Burlington Magazine, 116(855), 317-326.
Sunderland, J. (1976) Painting in Britain, 1525 to 1975. New York : New York University Press.
Sunderland, J. (1976) John Hamilton Mortimer's 'Progress of Vice'. The Burlington Magazine, 118(884), 768-771.
Sunderland, J. (1977) Zoffany at the National Portrait Gallery. The Burlington Magazine, 119(887), 133-135.
Sunderland, J. (1977) Two Self-Portraits by James Jefferys?. The Burlington Magazine, 119(889), 279-282.
Sunderland, J. (1977) Gainsborough and Dance at Kenwood. The Burlington Magazine, 119(893), 587-588.
Sunderland, J. (1979) Mortimer's 'Sir Arthegal the Knight of Justice'. The Burlington Magazine, 121(914), 310-278.
Sunderland, J. (1986) The Great Artists 54 : their lives, works and inspiration, Hogarth. London: Marshall Cavendish.
Sunderland, J. (1986) John Hamilton Mortimer, his life and works. The Volume of the Walpole Society, 52, Iii-270.
Sunderland, J. (1988) John Hamilton Mortimer, his life and works. [London] : Walpole Society.
Sunderland, J. (1992) 'Samuel Johnson and History Painting' in The Virtuoso Tribe of Arts & Sciences: Studies in the Eighteenth-Century Work and Membership of the London Society of Arts, eds. Allan, D.G.C. and Abbott, J.L. Athens : University of Georgia Press.
Sunderland, J. (1999) 'Staging the Exhibitions at Somerset House' in A Rage for Exhibitions : Displaying modern art at Somerset House 1780-1836. Anne Puetz (ed). Cambridge: Chadwick-Healey.
Sunderland, J. (2000) John Hamilton Mortimer's "Bacchanalian Dance". The British Art Journal, 1(2), 69-69.
Sunderland, J. (2000) The Witt of the Witt Library: 'A library of picture reproductions'. The British Art Journal, 2(2), 82-83.
Sunderland, J. & Solkin, D.H. (2001) Art on the line : the Royal Academy exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780-1836. New Haven; London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Courtauld Institute Gallery.
DescriptionThe majority of the material in this collection concerns the artist, John Hamilton Mortimer. In particular, it includes the research notes of three Mortimer scholars: Gilbert Benthall, Benedict Nicolson and Sunderland himself.

The archive also contains a smaller set of material relating to Sunderland's other, less significant, research interests. This material has been selected from a larger set of lecture notes and preparatory work for published articles. The majority of this material comprises Sunderland's correspondence with other art historians and institutions and his own notes about the provenance of various paintings. There are also small files of material Sunderland created while working on various exhibitions on 18th century artists.
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