STEER, Philip Wilson (1860-1942)

Scope and Content

Papers of Philip Wilson Steer, 1836-1962, comprising personal ephemera, 1860-1917, including his birth certificate, 1860; art examination certificates, 1880-1881; permit book for sketching at Dover, 1917; photographs, 1864-1930s and undated, including Steer at various ages and family members;
original pictures by Steer, comprising charcoal drawing of pollarded stump and wall, undated; monochrome watercolour, 1877; monochrome over pencil drawing of Christ healing the sick / raising Lazarus, undated (described as an early work);
papers relating to dealers, notably lists and statements of accounts for pictures sold, by Barbizon House, 1927, undated, by Goupil Galleries, 1909-1937, by Charles A Jackson, 1919-1926, and by David Sassoon & Co, 1927; lists, comprising list of dates of places where Steer worked from 1884, undated, and list of pigments used by Steer, [1970];
letters, comprising correspondence from or to Steer or his parents, 1836-1942, including relating to Steer's Order of Merit, 1931, letters to his family whilst abroad, 1876, 1882-3; letters relating to Steer's memorial, 1942-1943; letters to Dorothea Hamilton concerning the gift of a Steer watercolour as a wedding present to Princess Elizabeth, 1947, and deposit of material to the British Museum, 1945-1946; letters concerning publications relating to Steer, 1942-1962, Steer's estate 1942-1944; lists of subscibers to the Steer Memorial and addresses given at Steer's memorial service and the unveiling of the memorial slab, 1942-1943; articles by Steer on Impressionism in Art, 1891, and by Dugald Sutherland MacColl, 1939; newspaper and magazine cuttings, 1906-1948, including Steer's obituary and will, 1942, 1944, Steer exhibitions, 1943-1945, reviews of publications relating to Steer, 1944, 1945; sales catalogues containing items (furniture, porcelain, pictures, watercolours, books and silver plate) sold from Steer's estate after his death, 1942; miscellaneous papers including invitation to Steer's Memorial exhibition, 1943, booklet for D S Macoll's memorial service, 1949; list of documents given to the Courtauld by Dorothea Hamilton, undated.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Birkenhead, 1860; moved to Whitchurch near Ross-on-Wye, 1864; educated at home by a governess; preparatory school at Whitchurch, 1871-1875; Hereford Cathedral School, 1875-1877; Gloucester School of Art; Acadmie Julian in Paris, 1882; Ecole des Beaux-Arts, 1883; pictures hung at the Royal Academy, 1883-1885; returned to England and worked on a series of paintings beginning at Walberswick, Suffolk; supporter and constant exhibitor at the New English Art Club; taught at the Slade School of Fine Art [1895]-1930; began to work increasingly with water-colours from about 1900; honorary member of the Liverpool Academy of Arts, 1906; Order of Merit, 1931; died in Chelsea, 1931; his work is found, amongst others, in the British Museum, the Tate Gallery, the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin, the Welsh National Museum, Cardiff.


Arranged in sections as given in scope and content, largely in chronological order. The letters are arranged according to correspondent or subject, and then alphabetically by correspondent.

Access Information

Initial applications should be made to the Deputy Librarian, Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R ORN. At least one week's notice is generally required for access to archival material.

Acquisition Information

The papers were given to the Courtauld in about 1970, by Dorothea Hamilton, Steer's niece.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available in the Courtauld Institute Library. This includes an index, largely of personal and place names, but also some subjects.

Archivist's Note

Sources: Who's Who 1897-1996 (A & C Black, 1996); Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 1995); Courtauld Institute of Art catalogue; British Library On-Line Public Access Catalogue 97; National Register of Archives. Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the AIM25 Project.

Separated Material

Letters to T G Blackwell and George L Behrend, 1923-1934, held at the British Library, Manuscript Collections (ref: Add MS 46193); letters to Sir William Rothenstein, held at Harvard University, Houghton Library (ref: NUC MS 82-665); sketchbooks, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Department of Designs, Prints and Drawings (ref: Handbook to Dept of Prints & Drawings, p28).

Conditions Governing Use

Material may be photocopied subject to the approval of the Librarian or Archivist, and provided it does not breach the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1988.

Custodial History

The collection includes papers accumulated by Steer during his lifetime, and also his niece, Dorothea Hamilton after his death. According to a list made in about 1970 (reference CI/PWS 12/1), probably by Bruce Laughton at the Courtauld, not all the papers originally deposited are now extant. Missing items include the letters congratulating Steer on his Order of Merit, the engravings and photographs. All extant papers have been sorted and refiled.


Wilson Steer Robin Ironside (George Allen & Unwin [Phaidon Press], London, 1943); Philip Wilson Steer 1860 - 1942 Bruce Laughton (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971); Life, Work and Setting of Philip Wilson Steer D S MacColl (Faber & Faber, London, 1945); Modern English Painters, Volume 1: Sickert to Lowry John Rothenstein ( Macdonald & Co, London, 1984 [first edition: 1954, revised 1976]); In memoriam Philip Wilson Steer Dugald Sutherland MacColl (Shenval Press, London, [1943]); Catalogue. Loan Exhibition of Works by P Wilson Steer. Open April 19-July 21, 1929 (London, [1929]); Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Philip Wilson Steer, O M, 1860-1942. Organised by the Tate Gallery at the National Gallery, June-August 1943 ([London, 1943]).