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).