NPG - Papers of Sir Roy Strong

Scope and Content

The Papers of Roy Strong include the following materials:

  • 25 files concerning Strong's work for the Gallery, including: correspondence with colleagues and acquaintances, mostly of a semi-personal nature concerning his personal commitments and achievements; text of lecture reflecting on career given at the Gallery in 2001; work for catalogue of Tudor and Jacobean portraits
  • 3 files concerning his work for external bodies

Records concerning Strong's work for Exhibitions can be found in the relevant exhibition file (see record series NPG32: Exhibition Case files). Records concerning the acquisition of portraits during his Directorship can be found in the relevant object file (see record series NPG 46: Registered Packets). Further records relating to Strong's work at the Gallery can be found in the Gallery correspondence from 1959-1974 (see record series NPG104: Correspondence Received and Sent by the Gallery).

Administrative / Biographical History

Roy Colin Strong was born on 23 August 1935 in Winchmore Hill, North London. He was educated at Edmonton County School in Edmonton and Queen Mary's College, London where he graduated with a first class honours degree. He earned a Ph.D from the Warburg Institute, University of London and became a research fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. In 1971 he married Julia Trevelyan Oman.

Strong was appointed Assistant Keeper of the National Portrait Gallery in 1959. In 1967, at the age of 31 he became the Gallery's youngest Director. He set about transforming its image with a series of extrovert exhibitions including, perhaps most famously, Cecil Beaton portraits, 1928-1968 which attracted 75,000 visitors. Other notable achievements during Strong's Directorship include the establishment of a new department of film and photography; the commissioning of Annigoni to paint the Queen in 1970 (NPG 4706), a portrait seen by nearly 250,000 people during the first two months. He was also responsible, following the decision in 1972 to make a substantial loan of 16th & 17th century portraits to Montacute, a National Trust house in Somerset, for laying the foundations to what is now known as the Gallery's Regional Partnership programme. During Strong's Directorship, the profile of the Gallery and its attendance figures rose significantly.

In 1973, Strong became Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum. He held this post until 1987 when he resigned and began a second career as an expert gardener. He lives in the village of Much Birch, in Herefordshire and here designed one of England's largest post-war formal gardens, The Laskett. Strong now works full-time as a writer and broadcaster. Throughout his career he has published prolifically on a variety of subjects but concerning in particular, Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean portraits and portraiture. He was knighted in 1982.

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Other Finding Aids

The complete catalogue for this archive can be searched via the NPG Archive Catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.

Related Material

Records concerning Strong's work for NPG Exhibitions can be found in the relevant exhibition file (see record series NPG32: Exhibition Case files). Records concerning the acquisition of portraits during his Directorship can be found in the relevant object file (see record series NPG 46: Registered Packets). Further records relating to Strong's work at the Gallery can be found in the Gallery correspondence from 1959-1974 (see record series NPG104: Correspondence Received and Sent by the Gallery).

Papers relating to Strong's work for various publications are held at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art.

Personal Names