TitleThe Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, Institutional Records
Admin/Biog HistoryThe establishment of the Paul Mellon Foundation began in 1959, with a chance meeting between the English art historian, Basil Taylor and Paul Mellon, the American philanthropist and art collector. A shared interest in Stubbs and sporting art saw Taylor soon become Mellon's adviser as he began to build up his collection of British Art. By 1961 Mellon had become interested in the idea of a publishing venture that would 'promote a wider knowledge and understanding of British Art'. A non-profit Charitable Trust was established under the wing of the Bollingen Foundation (another of Mellon's charitable Trusts), its primary aim being to publish a series to be entitled 'Studies in British Art'. It was called the Bollingen Foundation for British Art and was officially incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee on 13 June 1963. Basil Taylor was appointed Director. Shortly afterwards, having experienced financial complications operating as a Limited Company, the Foundation was reformed as a Trust and on 4 May 1964 received Charitable Status. Financial control was transferred to the Old Dominion Foundation and the initiative renamed The Paul Mellon Foundation for British Art. It's Board of Trustees consisted of James Byam Shaw, Sir Herbert Read, Charles Wishaw and Basil Taylor himself. The Foundation operated from rented premises at 38 Bury Street, St James'.

The first results of the Foundations activities were a series of short supplements on British Art, which appeared in Apollo magazine. Publishing academic titles quickly became a primary activity and from 1965 it produced at least one book annually. [Copies of all Paul Mellon Foundation publications can be found in the Paul Mellon Centre Library]. The Foundation also administered a modest grant programme supporting both individual scholars in their research and providing finanical support for mounting exhibitions. It endowed two lectureships at the Universities of York and Leicester and, employing an in-house photographer, began to establish an archive of black & white photographs.

The development of the Foundation was closely followed in the press and in 1967 Taylor published a progress report in the Contemporary Review. In this report, he drew attention to what was to prove the Foundations nemesis, a proposed multi-volume Dictionary of British Art. Various young scholars had been engaged to carry out research for the project and by 1969 progess on the first volume had been considerable: major researchers and contributors had been appointed; surveys carried out and detailed research undertaken in specific regions of the UK. However, plans for the Dictionary proved too ambitious.

In 1968 partly due to his weakness in managing the Foundations financial resources and partly due to his own ill health, Taylor resigned as Director. The planning of the Yale Center for British Art, designed to house Paul Mellon's collection of British Art was progressing apace, and it was decided that a London outpost for this institution would be highly desirable. Paul Mellon himself was concerned that the Foundation had become an open-ended financial commitment and in early 1969, asked Yale University if it would be prepared to take over the London establishment if he donated $5,000,000 for the purposes. On December 9th a conference was held at which Yale determined that, primarily for financial reasons, they could not commit to the Dictionary project (the estimated cost of completing the work was over £1,000,000). Later that month, Yale received Mellon's gift and the Foundation closed.

On 25 June 1970, the newly reconstituted institution was officially incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee not having share capital and renamed the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art London (Ltd) . It operated under the aegis of Yale University and reported to a Board of Governors based at Yale which included the Director of the Yale Center for British Art. Professor Ellis Waterhouse was appointed Director of Studies and the Centre opened in rented premises at 20 Bloomsbury Square. The main activities of the Foundation - publishing academic titles; supporting a grants and fellowship programme and building up a photographic archive - were continued. In 1973 Waterhouse retired and Christopher White took up post as Director. Keen to forge closer links with the Yale Center for British Art, in 1977 he introduced a Yale-in-London programme. Initially a summer course, it was extended in 1981 to two full semesters that provided study abroad opportunities for Yale undergraduates.

In 1985 Michael Kitson replaced Christopher White as Director; and when Kitson retired in 1993, Brian Allen took up the post. The careful investment of the Paul Mellon endowment and resulting increased funds enabled the Centre to move, in 1996, to larger premises at 16 Bedford Square. Today it's core activities include operating active prorgammes in the following areas: publishing; grants and fellowships; academic events; and Yale-in-London. It is also a research centre, housing a library, archive and photographic archive, all of which are open to the public.

This description is based on: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and Allen, B. (2010) The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art : a history 1970-2010. London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. [a copy is available in Library, see URL below]
DescriptionIncludes records created in the course of the everyday business of the Paul Mellon Centre (1970-present) and its predecessor The Paul Mellon Foundation (1963-1969) and relating to all aspects of business, in particular the following activities:

-Publishing academic titles
-Administering grants and fellowships
-Hosting Yale-in-London students
-Organising academic events
-Managing the Library; Archive and Photographic Archive collections

Also includes records concerning the establishment of both the Foundation and Centre; policy and planning; staff; finances and resources.

Many of the records contain personal data (information about living individuals) and for this reason are closed to the public. Records that are open include those compiled in relation to the discontinued project to publish a multi-volume Dictionary of British Art (PMC35/2). They also include material already in the public domain, specifically: Annual Reports (PMC3); Newsletters (PMC7); Press-cuttings (PMC8) and General Publicity Records (PMC10).
Date[c 1963-present]
Extent143 boxes
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