Christopher Wright Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive relates mainly to the publication 'British and Irish paintings in public collections: an index of British and Irish oil paintings by artists born before 1870 in public and institutional collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland'.

The material comprises lists, letters, notes, computer print-outs (and some published material) all detailing information about works in public collections. The oldest lists were bound by Christopher Wright into 21 volumes. Later material is loose and has been arranged in 80 files.

Administrative / Biographical History

Christopher Wright is an art historian, artist and curator. He graduated from the University of Leeds in 1967 and gained an MA in the History of European Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 1969. He was the Deputy Librarian of the Witt Library at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, from 1969 to 1976. He has worked in a freelance capacity since 1976. He is the author, editor and co-editor of many books on subjects including Poussin, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, and Dutch and French painters. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts since 1976.

In the early 1970s Christopher Wright began work on an ambitious project, the aim of which was to create an index of old master paintings in public collections in Britain. To this end he began to correspond with, and visit, public collections in the UK requesting details of any foreign paintings they held (executed in oil, tempura, fresco or a combination of these media, including cassone panels). The lists and information he received were distilled to produce 'Old Master paintings in Britain: An Index of Continental Old Master paintings executed before c.1800 in Public Collections in the United Kingdom', which was published in 1976 by Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications.

Christopher Wright's interest in this area continued and, together with Catherine Gordon at the Courtauld Institute, he began work on a project which aimed to collate information on all British paintings (works in oil and tempura only) held in public collections in the UK. Once again, Wright (& Gordon) corresponded with and collected lists of holdings from public collections all over the country. The information collected was distilled to produce 'British and Irish paintings in public collections : an index of British and Irish oil paintings by artists born before 1870 in public and institutional collections in the United Kingdom and Ireland', which was published in 2006 for the Paul Mellon Centre.


The collection is arranged into two series - bound volumes and loose lists - reflecting the order created by Wright and other researchers.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research. Readers must fill in an 'Reader Agreement Form' which outlines the reading room rules and conditions concerning privacy and Data Protection

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Jenny Hill, Archives and Library Assistant, 2012

Custodial History

This archive was compiled by Christopher Wright and others and was acquired by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in 1998.


None expected.