Sir Richard Brinsley Ford was a collector, art patronage scholar and, for thirty-four years, director of the Burlington Magazine. Ford was the son of Captain Richard Ford (1860-1940), a British army officer, and Rosamund Isabel Ramsden (1872-1911). He was a descendant of the Irish dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816). His great-grandfather, Richard Ford (1796-1856), was a connoisseur and author of the important travel book on Spain (Handbook For Spain, 1845). Ford attended Eton and then Trinity College, Oxford, graduating in 1930 in modern history. He began publishing scholarly articles in 1939 with a piece on Ingres's portrait drawings in the Burlington Magazine. Ford focused on Italian seicento and settecento pictures during these years, especially works by Cavallino, Cozza, and Batoni. His monograph, The Drawings of Richard Wilson, was published in 1951. In 1952 he was made director of the Burlington Magazine and in 1954 trustee of the National Gallery.
Ford began to assemble material for a dictionary of gentlemen who had made the grand tour to Rome and Italy in the 1950s as a result of his study of Jonathan Skelton's letters, published by the Walpole Society in 1960. In 1962 Basil Taylor agreed that the Paul Mellon Foundation (predecessor of the Paul Mellon Centre for studies in British Art) would fund Ford's research on British Travellers in Italy, the aim being to publish the material as a three volume book. Ford received a grant for this purpose and used it primarily to pay for the services of a research assistant. By 1970 the project had expanded into a five volume publication: two volumes featuring general critique and essays, three volumes featuring an alphabetical dictionary of British travellers in Italy. Paperwork from this time reveals that Ford was already considering leaving the accumulated archive to the Foundation.
In 1972, following the closure of the Paul Mellon Foundation, the project was suspended. The archive was maintained by Ford and further augmented to become a valuable source of information for various researchers of the subject. In 1974, Ford published a series of six essays in a special number of Apollo that concentrated on British grand tour patronage. In 1974 he became a member of the executive committee of the National Art Collections Fund and the following year became its chairman, a post which he held until 1980.
Ford was knighted for his work in 1984. In the same year he resigned from the Burlington Magazine. In 1986 he become president of the Walpole Society and two years later a catalogue of his collection was published in the journal. However, during the 1980s, due to ill-health and the already lengthy research period, Ford had become increasingly frustrated with his project on British Travellers in Italy. The Paul Mellon Centre expressed an interest in supporting the further research and editing work that was necessary in order to bring the work to publication. An acquisition document was signed on 15 September 1988, officially transferring ownership of the archive to the Centre.
Between 1988 and 1992, Kim Sloan and Ilaria Bignamini, were employed by the Paul Mellon Centre to bring the archive to publication. In 1992 the project was taken over by John Ingamells. Working with a number of research assistants the archive was expanded and edited and in 1997, eventually published as Brinsley Ford Archive et al. (1997) A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1701-1800 - compiled from the Brinsley Ford Archive. London: Published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art by Yale University Press.
Brinsley Ford died of a heart attack at his home in 1999.
Please note that this description is based on the entry for Sir Richard Brinsley Ford in the online edition of A Biographical Dictionary of Historic Scholars, Museum Professionals and Academic Historians of Art. [http://www.dictionaryofarthistorians.org/fordb.htm accessed on 02 Jun 2011.]