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Popham, Hugh

    Full Name: Popham, Hugh

    Other Names:

    • Hugh Popham

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 22 March 1889

    Date Died: 08 December 1970

    Place Born: Plymouth, Plymouth, City of, England, UK

    Place Died: Islington, London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): drawings (visual works), Italian (culture or style), Italian Renaissance-Baroque styles, prints (visual works), and Renaissance

    Career(s): curators


    British Museum Keeper of Prints and Drawings; scholar of Italian art. Popham was son of Arthur Frederick Popham, a failed architect who worked in the bookbinding division of the Doves Press, and Florence Radford Popham. Both parents were connected to the draper’s firm of Popham and Radford, Plymouth. Popham’s parents both had died by 1908. He was educated at Dulwich College and University College, London before being sent to King’s College, Cambridge, by his guardian, where he graduated with a second-class in classics in 1911. He was friends with many of the Bloomsbury Group at this time, though not ostensibly one himself. In 1912 he joined the British Museum’s department of Prints and Drawings, under the direction of Campbell Dodgson. The same year he married Brynhild Olivier (1886/7-1935). With the outbreak of World War I, Popham joined the Royal Naval Air Service, transferring later to the Royal Flying Corps, as the air force was known at that time. Returning to the museum after the war, Popham was assigned to write the volume of the catalog of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch and Flemish drawings collection, a series begun by Arthur Mayger Hind. In 1926 Popham married the divorcée Rosalind Baynes (1891/2-1973) a cousin of his first wife. Another study of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch and Flemish drawing appeared that same year, Drawings of the Early Flemish School, a handbook on the topic. Popham comprised part of an illustrious staff at the Print Department, which, aside from Dodgson, Hind and Parker, also included Laurence Binyon and Arthur Waley. With Parker, too, he assisted founding and editing the magazine Old Master Drawings (1926-1940). During these years, his catalogs, first for the exhibition of Italian drawings at the Royal Academy (1930, published 1931) and the Fitzroy Fenwick collection (1935) marked his scholarship in the Italian idiom. He was made Deputy Keeper in 1933. After cataloging the collections of T. Fitzroy Fenwick and the Burlington House collection, he assisted in moving the collections of the Museum to safekeeping during the Blitzkrieg bombings of World War II. There in Aberystwath, he worked with Frederick Antal, Philip Pouncey and Johannes Wilde. He succeeded Hind as the Keeper of the Print Room in 1945. He published his magisterial Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci the same year. Popham was instrumental in securing choice prints from the Liechtenstein Collection for the British Museum when the collection came on the market through Colnaghi’s. He collaborated with Wilde in the catalog of the Italian drawings for Windsor Castle (1949). In 1954 Popham retired and embarked on essentially another entire career of cataloging print collections for major auction houses and scholars. He succeeded Adolph Paul Oppé (1878-1957) as European adviser to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, for drawings acquisitions. His catalog of European drawings (except British) in the Ottawa collection, appeared in 1965. In 1955 he was made an honorary fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. These included de Pass Collection of the Truro Musem, 1957, the Skippe collection (for Christie’s auction house), 1958, and pieces from the Chatsworth Collection that toured the United States 1962-63. He completed the catalogue raisonné of Parmigianino drawings, which his 1953 monograph had laid the groundwork, before his death. His work on the drawings of Holkham Hall was published in the 1980s by Christopher Lloyd. One daughter, Anne, married the art writer Quentin Bell. Popham is known for establishing the canon of the Emilian school of drawings, Parmigianino and Correggio which were not popular in the English-speaking world. As an expert cataloger, his knowledge extended far beyond but included the collections of the British Museum, Windsor, Chatsworth, Holkham, Christ Church, and Oxford.

    Selected Bibliography

    [edited] Old Master Drawings: a Quarterly Magazine for Students and Collectors. London: B. T Batsford, 1926-40; Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain). Italian Drawings Exhibited at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, London, 1930. London: The Oxford University Press, 1931; The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1945; and Wilde, Johannes. Italian Drawings of the XV and XVI Centuries in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle. London: Phaidon, 1949; Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Volume I: The 14th and 15th Centuries, with Philip Pouncey. London: Trustees of the Britisk Museum, 1950; Selected Drawings from Windsor Castle: Raphael and Michelangelo. London: Phaidon Press, 1954; Correggio’s Drawings. London: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1957;Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino. 3 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press for the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1971; and Lloyd, Christopher. Old Master Drawings at Holkham Hall. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.


    Garnett, David. The Golden Echo. New York: Harcourt, Brace 1954; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 435; Kemp, Martin. “Introduction.” Popham, A. E. The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. 2nd ed. London: Pimlico, 1994; Shaw, James Byam, and Lloyd, Christopher, rev. “Popham, Arthur Ewart [Hugh] (1889-1970).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford; [obituaries] Shaw, James Byam. “Arthur Ewart Popham (1889-1970).” Burlington Magazine 113, No. 815. (February 1971): 97-98; “Mr A. E. Popham: Authority on Old Master Drawings.” The Times [London] December 9, 1970, p. 12.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Popham, Hugh." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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