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Hendy, Philip, Sir

    Image Credit: National Portrait Gallery

    Full Name: Hendy, Philip, Sir

    Other Names:

    • Sir Philip Hendy

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1900

    Date Died: 1980

    Place Born: Carlisle, Scotland, UK

    Place Died: Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom


    Director of the National Gallery, London, 1946-1967. Hendy was the son of Frederick James Robert Hendy, who would become director of the department of education at Oxford University, and Caroline Isabelle Potts (Hendy). He attended the Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1923 in modern history. That year, with no training in art, he was appointed assistant to the keeper (curator) of the Wallace Collection under Samuel James Camp, and a lecturer. He married Kythé Caroline Ogilvy (b. 1902) in 1925. Hendy was assigned to research objects for the Wallace catalog of the collections. His work there and articles in the Burlington Magazine so impressed officers of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston that Hendy was contracted live in Italy for three years, beginning in 1927, to research the Gardner catalog. As the Gardner publication neared press, (it appeared in 1931), Hendy was appointed curator of paintings for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1930. At Boston, Hendy purchased modern European paintings by Braque, Severini, Tchelitchew, and British artists W. R. Sickert, S. F. Gore, John Nash, and Robert Bevan. Hendy’s purchase of Matisse’s nude Carmelina (1903) in 1933 brought about a major dispute with the conservative Trustees and Hendy resigned. He returned to Britain and in 1934 accepted the director position at the Leeds City Art Gallery. Hendy was in charge of the evacuation the Leeds collection to Temple Newsam House during World War II. He was appointed Slade Professor at Oxford in 1936 (which he held until 1946), receiving his M.A. in 1937. His monograph on Giovanni Bellini appeared in 1945. In 1946, Kenneth Clark resigned as director of the National Gallery and Hendy succeeded him. One of his immediate hires was Cecil Gould, who, under Hendy, became an important museum professional as well. When, under Hendy, the Gallery paintings were returned from their safe-storage in the Manod caves of Wales and Lord Lee’s Gallery, Gloucestershire after the War, he ordered many cleaned (much of it done by Helmut Ruhemann, 1891-1973). Accusations of over-cleaning were charged by the artist Sir Gerald Kelly (1879-1972) in the London Times, especially the paintings Chapeau de paille (Susanna Fourment), 1622, by Rubens, Rembrandt’s Woman Bathing in a Stream (Hendrickje Stoffels?), 1654, and the portrait bust of Philip IV by Velázquez, 1656. The Trustees set up a committee in 1948 (the so-called Weaver Committee) to evaluate the paintings. Hendy was cleared of wrong-doing. A second book on an Italian Renaissance artists, Masaccio, appeared from Hendy in 1957. In 1961 Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington was stolen and Hendy again had to justify his administration. He retired from the Gallery in 1967, succeeded by Martin Davies, spending three years (1968-1971) as adviser to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He published a book on Piero della Francesca in1968. He divorced his first wife and married Cicely Prichard Martin, the widow of (Charles) Christopher Martin. Hendy suffered a stroke in 1975 but lived for five more years. Hendy’s generation of museum officials was the last one in Britain where amateurs, well-educated but self-taught in art history could immediately move into museum curation. His natural eye led him to many astute observations and a few prejudices (he disliked the Pre-Raphaelites). Among his writings, the Gardner catalog is considered the longest-lasting.

    Selected Bibliography

    Piero della Francesca and the Early Renaissance. New York: Macmillan, 1968; Art Treasures in the British Isles: Monuments, Masterpieces, Commissions, and Collections. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969; Art Treasures of the National Gallery, London. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1960; Masaccio: Frescoes in Florence. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1956; Catalogue of the exhibited paintings and drawings [of the] Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1931; Loan Exhibition of One Hundred Colonial Portraits, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1930.


    Shaw, James Byam. “Philip Hendy.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Cox, Trenchard. “Sir Philip Hendy.” The Burlington Magazine 123, No. 934 (January1981): 33; Hall, Helen. “Early Twentieth-century British Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” Apollo 120 (September 1984): 195-200.


    "Hendy, Philip, Sir." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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