The controvesy over attribution in C.E.M.A. exhibitions

Scope and Content


-letter from Ralph Edwards, dated 31 Dec 1943, concerning Oppé's disagreement with the Cozens attribution

-newspaper cuttings of Oppé's Burlington review and the response, in the same publication, by Edwards

-magazine cutting of the disputed work by Cozens

-annotated catalogue for the C.E.M.A. 1942-3 exhibition

-17 newspaper cuttings of letters to The Times on the subject of the disputed Manet attribution in C.E.M.A.'s 1944 exhibition

-letter from Philip Hendy, Temple Newsam, dated 15 Dec 1944, concerning Oppé's letter to the Times regarding the 1944 Manet controvesy and comments he made about a work by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)

Administrative / Biographical History

C.E.M.A. (Committee for Encouragement of Music and the Arts) was a precursor to the Arts Council, established by Royal Charter in 1940. From 1941 until his death, John Maynard Keynes was the chair, with Kennth Clark acting as chair of the art panel in the same period. In addition to funding arts organisations, C.E.M.A also organised exhibtions covering a wide variety of themes related to the arts.

One such exhibition, entitled, 'An exhibition of British landscapes in oils: from George II to Queen Victoria', curated by Ralph Edwards of the V&A, where it was also hosted, was held between 1942-3. Feautured in the exhibition was an oil painting attributed to John Robert Cozens. Oppé expressed doubt over this attribution in his review of the exhibition in the Burlington which prompted a minor dispute with Edwards over the matter.

Another C.E.M.A. exhibition held the following year which toured various locations outside London, entitled, 'Paintings of the French School from a private collection' (that of H.J.P. Bomford), caused an even greater controvesy. The argument was about a work which Bomford himself had attributed to Édouard Manet (1832-1883). This attribution was disputed by Thomas Bodkin of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in a letter to the Times. A public dispute followed with further letters in the Times, and involved - amongst others - Kenneth Clark, Samuel Courtauld, Robert Witt and Oppé.

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