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Sutton, Denys

    Full Name: Sutton, Denys

    Other Names:

    • Denys Miller Sutton

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1917

    Date Died: 1991

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Career(s): art critics and publishers


    Editor of Apollo magazine (1962-87) and exhibition organizer. His father was Edmund Miller Sutton and mother Dulcie Laura Wheeler (Sutton). Sutton attended Exeter College, Oxford, where he received a B.A., and B.Litt. and where he made the lifelong friendship with classmate and Byzantinist John Beckwith. In 1940 he married Sonja Kilbansky (later divorced). During World War II he worked in the Foreign Office Research Department, London, England, between 1940-46. In 1946 he was appointed secretary of the International Commission for Restitution of Cultural Material and in 1948 the fine arts specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Sutton was a visiting lecturer at Yale University in 1949 during which time he wrote a seminal essay for Horizon magazine (London) on modern American painting. He became the art sales correspondent and a book reviewer for the Daily Telegraph newspaper. He served as art critic for the Financial Times and Country Life. In 1952 he married Gertrud Koebke-Knudson (also later divorced). A third marriage to Cynthia Sassoon occurred in 1960. In 1962 the management of the Financial Times appointed Sutton the editor of Apollo, a scholarly but foundering art-history journal, then under the new ownership of the Financial Times. During his years as editor, he rejuvenated the magazine’s reputation as a serious journal for art-historical research and collecting. His witty if sharp editorials and “theme issues” brought the magazine back to profitability. The intellectual work of the art historian/collector Denis Mahon was largely established through the pages of Apollo during Sutton’s tenure. Sutton also translated a volume by Jean Adhémar on the Spanish painter Francisco Goya. Sutton developed throat cancer in 1973, yet continued to publish and edit the magazine, relearning to speak after radical throat surgery. He retired as editor of Apollo in 1986 to publish the biography, Degas: The Man and the Work the same year. He died of melanoma at age 73. As editor and sometimes nearly sole contributor to issues of Apollo, Sutton found a voice for the English-speaking cultural and collecting community. His instigation of whole issues devoted to individual museums, art historians (in the case of R. Langton Douglas) and collections broadened the magazine’s readership, rivaling Britain’s other mainstream art history (and some would say “art establishment”) organ, the Burlington Magazine. Sutton also built a reputation as an art exhibition organizer. His “France in the Eighteenth Century” show at the Royal Academy in 1968 were a blend of scholarship and connoisseurship. He authored biographies of Rodin, Whistler and Sickert and edited the letters of Roger Fry. Sutton was a frequent contributor to the Gazette des Beaux-Arts and a corresponding member of the Institut de France and a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. The historian, collector, and director of the Burlington Magazine, Brinsley Ford wrote a moving tribute to him in Apollo.

    Selected Bibliography

    [series of issues devoted R. Langton Douglas:] Apollo 109 (April 1979): 248-315 ff. [see Douglas entry for complete list]; American Painting. London: Avalon Press, 1948; Antoine Watteau: Les charmes de la vie, the Music Party, in the Wallace Collection, London. London: P. Lund, Humphries, 1946; Edgar Degas: Life and Work. New York: Rizzoli, 1986; James McNeill Whistler: Paintings, Etchings, Pastels & Watercolours. London: Phaidon Press, 1966; edited. Fry, Roger. Letters of Roger Fry. New York: Random House, 1972; Triumphant Satyr: the World of Auguste Rodin. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1966.


    [obituaries:] “Exacting Editor and Connoisseur.” The Guardian (London), January 29, 1991; Russell, John. “Denys Sutton, 73, an Art Critic, Editor and Curator of Exhibitions.” New York Times February 1, 1991, p.19; Mullaly, Terence. The Independent (London), January 29, 1991, p. 25; Ford, R. Brinsley “Denys Sutton, Editor of Apollo, 1962-1987: a Tribute.” Apollo 125 (March 1987): 157-8.


    "Sutton, Denys." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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