University of Birmingham Staff Papers: Papers of Thomas Bodkin

Scope and Content

The collection consists principally of papers relating to Bodkin's work on a proposed (but never completed) book on The Three Graces in art. There is a large number of photographs of paintings, illustrations and sculptures, as well as less obvious uses of the image. The photographs cover a wide range of subjects and give a glimpse of Bodkin's working life. There are typed lectures and drafts of chapters for the proposed book.

The collection also contains two interesting and rare periodical issues: Verve , Volume 1, Number 1, 1937; and L'Art 1914, founded by Adolfo Venturi. Verve was devoted to high quality reproductions and original projects by contemporary artists. The first volume has some excellent reproductions of work by Matisse and Leger.

Administrative / Biographical History

Administrative/Biographical History

Professor Thomas Bodkin, 1887-1961, first Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham, was born in Dublin and educated at Clongowes Wood College and the Royal Institute of Ireland. He was called to the bar in 1911 and practised for 5 years. Bodkin went on to study in art galleries in Italy, France, Holland, Belgium and Austria. He became the Director of the National Gallery of Ireland in 1927 and remained there until coming to Birmingham to take up the post of Director of the Barber Institute in 1935. The Barber Institute was formally opened by Queen Mary in 1939. In the intervening years Bodkin was involved in the foundation of the collection and worked closely with the architect, Robert Atkinson, on aspects of the design of the building. Bodkin retired as Director in 1952, but he continued to lecture. He also appeared on radio programmes such as The Brains Trust . He held several public appointments , including: trustee of the National Library of Ireland; Honorary Professor of the History of Fine Arts at Trinity College Dublin; member of the Advisory Committee of the Dublin Modern Art Gallery; and Secretary to the Commission of Charitable Donations and Bequests in the Irish Free State. Bodkin was also a keen art collector in his own right. His personal collection, auctioned in 1959 included work by Fetti, Desportes, Canaletto, Van de Venne, Cotman, Zorn, Orpen, Bonifazio, and Brekelenkam.

Reference: The University of Birmingham, Research Libraries Bulletin ( Number 4, Spring 1996 ).

Access Information

Access Conditions

This collection is housed in the Barber Fine Art Library in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. In order to arrange access to this collection, researchers should contact the University Archivist in advance of any visit.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased in 1996

Other Finding Aids

See full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds the archives of the University of Birmingham and archives of other former staff, officials and students.