Records of the British Council Visual Arts Department

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 70 TGA 200317
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      308 boxes

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 242 boxes of files relating to the work of the British Council Fine Arts, later Visual Arts, Department. The majority of the files concern the exhibitions created by the department and the touring of exhibitions outside Britain and provide illustrations of the art works included(notably for the Venice and Sao Paulo bienials), press cuttings, correspondence and related papers

Administrative / Biographical History

The British Council was founded in 1934 as the 'British Committee for Relations with Other Countries' and in 1936 it was re-named' The British Council'. The aims of the Council were:

"to promote abroad a wider appreciation of British culture and civilization, by encouraging the study and use of the English language, and thereby, to extend a knowledge of British literature and of the British contribution to music and the fine arts, the sciences, philosophic thought and political practice."

Funded by the British Government the Council's work was developed during World War Two and was particularly important during the 'Cold War' period and this is reflected in the papers in this collection. The Fine Arts Department role was to organize exhibitions of the work of British artists and send them overseas. In this work they established international relationships with overseas arts organisations and brought British art to wide and varied audiences.

The first Director of the Fine Arts Department was Major Alfred A. Longden. He was succeeded in 1947 by Lilian Somerville, who had joined the Council during the war; she was appointed as Director of the Fine Arts Section of the Visual Arts Department). In 1949 she was appointed Director of the retitled Fine Arts Department, and remained in this position until her retirement in 1970. She was succeeded by John Hulton (1971-1975) who had been her deputy. . Other heads of the Department include Henry Meyric Hughes ( 1984-1992) . The current Director is Andrea Rose.

The papers in this collection run from 1945-2003. Other documents relating to the British Council Fine Arts Department for this period have been deposited at The National Archive.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Related Material

British Council papers TGA 9712, Lilian Somerville papers TGA 867


Corporate Names