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Strong, Sandford Arthur

    Full Name: Strong, Sandford Arthur

    Other Names:

    • Sandford A. Strong

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1863

    Date Died: 1904

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): Arabic (style), British (modern), and catalogues raisonnés

    Career(s): librarians


    Librarian and Arabic scholar; helped identify and catalog masterworks in British collections. Strong was the son of Thomas Banks Strong, a War Office official, and Anna Lawson (Strong), a scholar of Hebrew. As a boy he studied drawing from Albert Varley, who gave him an edition of the Dictionary of Painters by Matthew Pilkington. Strong made a study of these artists, visiting to the National Gallery, London to supplement his interest. He attended St. Paul’s School in London, in 1877 but almost immediately left to become a clerk at Lloyd’s and attending classes at King’s College, London, before entering St. John’s College Cambridge, in1881 on a scholarship. At the suggestion of Edward Byles Cowell (1826-1903) he studied Sanskrit under Cecil Bendall (1856-1906). Strong graduated in 1884 in classics, but felt so ignored at Cambridge that he switched to Oxford in 1885 for intended graduate work. There he worked in the library of the Indian Institute. His contact with the Oxford scholars there led to him study in France and Germany under James Darmesteter (1849-1894) at Paris and Schrader at Berlin. Returning to London, he continued scholarly activity, reviewing for The Athenaeum and The Academy and creating an edition of the Maha-Bodhi-Vamsa for the Pali Text Society in 1891 and the Futah al-Habashah (or Conquest of Abyssinia) in 1894 for the Royal Asiatic Society’s monographs. A bid for the chair of Arabic at Cambridge failed, but in 1895 he was appointed professor of Arabic at University College, London. At the recommendation of Sidney Colvin, Strong took the position of librarian at Chatsworth to the duke of Devonshire, replacing Sir James Lacaita (1813-1895). Strong made several discoveries among the paintings collection at Chatsworth, the result of his boyhood study. In 1897 Strong married Eugénie Sellers Strong a distinguished archaeologist and art historian, and was appointed librarian at the House of Lords, a position he held concurrently with Chatsworth. His librarian duties included the cataloging of the general library and of the law books in printed editions. His successes led to an appointment of librarian to the duke of Portland at Welbeck Abbey, then the earl of Pembroke at Wilton, and finally Lord Wantage at Lockinge. He published analyses of these collections between 1900 and 1904. He assisted on the expanded second edition of History of Painting in Italy (1903 ff.) by Joseph Archer Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle. Strong suffered a chronic illness and died early in 1904. He is buried in Brompton cemetery. The Arthur Strong Oriental Library at University College, London, was named in his honor, built from volumes begun in his memory by his widow. Although the library was later dispersed to the university collection, a core of the titles formed the later library of the new School of Oriental Studies, founded in 1916. As an Italianist, Strong’s views were questioned by the Italian advisors to the Burlington Magazine, where Strong published. Roger Fry considered some of Strong’s attributions in the catalog of the Chatsworth old master drawing collection to be ridiculous and that the book’s review in the magazine was much gentler than it should have been because Strong controlled the plates (photographs) of the paintings needed to be published. Strong generally sided with R. Langton Douglas against Bernard Berenson in the quarrels, in part, according to Ernst Samuels, because of Strong’s wife’s affection for Berenson in the years before her marriage.

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliography:] “Arthur Strong’s Original Contributions to Orientalism,” and “Articles by Arthur Strong not Reprinted in this Volume.” in, Strong, Sanford Arthur. Critical Studies and Fragments. London: Duckworth, 1905, pp. 348-50; edited 2nd edition, with Douglas, Langton, of Crowe, Joseph Archer, and Cavalcaselle, Giovanni. A History of Painting in Italy, Umbria, Florence and Siena, from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. 6 vols. London: J. Murray, 1903-1914; The Masterpieces in the Duke of Devonshire’s Collection of Pictures. London: F. Hanfstaengl, 1901; Futuh al-Habashah, or The Conquest of Abyssinia. London, 1894; edited Englsih edition, Kristeller, Paul. Andrea Mantegna. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1901; and Redford, George, and Temple, Alfred George. Catalogue of Pictures Forming the Collection of Lord and Lady Wantage at 2 Carlton Gardens, London, Lockinge House, Berks, and Overstone Park and Ardington House. London: F. Wetherman, 1902.


    Lord Balcarres. “Memoir.” in Strong, Sanford Arthur. Critical Studies and Fragments. London: Duckworth, 1905, pp. 1-25; Leahy, Helen Rees. “The Burlington Magazine, 1903-1911.” in, Mansfield, Elizabeth, ed. Art History and its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline. New York: Routledge, 2002, pp. 232-233; Cotton, J. S., and Katz, J. B. “Strong, Sandford Arthur (1863-1904).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004; [obituary:] Times (London) January 19, 1904; Lowndes, M. E. “A Distinguished Librarian.” (June 1905); Samuels, Ernest and Samuels, Jayne Newcomer. Bernard Berenson: the Making of a Legend. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1987, p. 145.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Strong, Sandford Arthur." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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