Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd Archive

Scope and Content

The Archive consists of stockbooks, daybooks, diaries, accounts ledgers, minutes, valuation books, cuttings, microfilm, photographic negatives and correspondence. The Archive records many famous paintings that have passed through the hands of Agnew's (e.g. Velazquez The Rokeby Venus, Bellini Feast of the Gods or Van Eyck Three Maries) and contains information on major collectors, including George Salting, J.P. Morgan and Lord Rothschild. The Archive does not cover the very earliest years of the firm but, from the 1850s onwards, it offers a notably full and detailed record of all the firm's activities and trade.

This catalogue was produced with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.

Administrative / Biographical History

The firm of Agnew's dates back to 1817 when Thomas Agnew (1794-1871) entered into partnership with Vittore Zanetti, an Italian printseller and instrument, picture framemaker and gilder. The company was originally based in Manchester and Agnew became its sole proprietor in 1835 when the partnership was dissolved. Under his stewardship, the business expanded and became one of the country's leading printsellers and publishers while it also offered ancillary services (such as framing) and began to deal in pictures. Thomas' two sons, William (1825-1910) and Thomas (1827-1883), became partners in the business in 1851 when the firm became Thos. Agnew & Sons. The company flourished; a London branch in Waterloo Place opening in 1860 and they moved to a purpose-built Old Bond Street Gallery in 1877. By the end of the 19th century Agnew's had expanded from dealing in contemporary art to Old Master paintings and drawings, and became one of the major dealers in the international art market with offices around the world:

- Liverpool (1859-1909)

- Paris (1907-1914, 1919-[1926])

- Berlin (1908-1913)

- New York (1925-1931)

Following the market crash in 1932, Thos. Agnew & Sons became a limited company, closed the branch in Manchester and consolidated its activities in London. The company was able to survive the difficult years of the depression and the Second World War, and the business was supported by the W&T Agnew Syndicate which managed the expenditure on and rental from property (3-4 Albemarle Street and 42-43 Old Bond Street) with members of the Agnew family as shareholders. The company's fortunes picked up following the Second World War, and .... but move to contemporary art and began to struggle ... In 2008 Agnew's historic gallery in Old Bond Street was sold, and the company moved to a smaller gallery space in 35 Albemarle Street. In 2014 the firm passed to new owners, led by Cliff Schorer and Anthony Crichton-Stuart, who purchased the holding company of Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd. from members of the Agnew family.

The following addresses were rented and/or owned by the firm from the early 1800s:

- Liverpool, 2 Duke Street

- Liverpool, Exchange Art Gallery, on the corner of Castle Street and Dale Street

- London, 3-4 Albemarle Street

- London, 5 Waterloo Place, Pall Mall

- London, 42-43 (previously 39) Old Bond Street

- Manchester, 14 Exchange Street

- Manchester, 94 Market Street, Manchester

- New York, 33 East 67th Street


The Archive is arranged in 35 series.

Access Information


The papers are available to researchers by appointment with the Archivist. Access to 20th century material within the archive will be restricted in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018.

Other Finding Aids

The most recent and complete list is held on CALM ALM, and available online. The archive also contains card indexes which assist navigation through the records.

Archivist's Note

Catalogue complied by Rachael Merrison. This catalogue was produced with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the reader to determine the exact copyright status of a work.

Appraisal Information

The archive was appraised at the firm, and all pre-1984 material was identified and transfered to the National Gallery.

Custodial History

The archive was retained by the firm until its sale to the National Gallery in 2013. It has been assigned the manuscript reference NGA27.


All pre-1984 material was received in 2014, and post-1984 material will be transferred to the National Gallery by Agnews every 10 years.