Gilbert Benthall Archive

Scope and Content

Three volumes of notebooks that contain drafts and notes for Benthall's unpublished account of English Art Schools in London, 1626-1780. Volume I also seems to have been used by Benthall to record details about print sales between 1912-1915.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gilbert Benthall was a collector of prints and drawings and an amateur art historian. Benthall was born on 15 June 1880, the son of Albert Benthall (a medical practioner) and Rose. He was educated at St Dunstan's school and served as an officer in the Royal Garrison Artillery between 1914-1918. After demobilisation he entered the civil service where he remained until his retirement in 1950. Benthall spent his retirement researching art historical subjects of personal interest. Between 1950 and 1956 he compiled a monograph on John Hamilton Mortimer. His repeated efforts to secure a publisher were unscuessful and, in a letter written to Felix Leakey on 30 December 1959, he writes that 'by 1956 I had put the publication of John Hamilton Mortimer into 'cold storage' (Ref V&A, National Art Library, MSL/1961/1224). Following the rejection of the Mortimer manuscript, Benthall began researching the history of the Art Schools in London prior to the foundation of the Royal Academy. By 1959, in the same letter to Leakey detailed above, he writes that he has 'collected several volumes of notes and roughed out c 20000 words' on the subject. A typescript of the manuscript deposited at the V&A is entitled: 'Early Art Schools in London 1635-1770'. It was never published.

Gilbert Benthall was married with one child who died in youth. He died in Amersham in 1961 and was survived by his wife, who donated his papers to the V&A.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Custodial History

Unknown. In 1964 the Paul Mellon Foundation awarded a grant to the Towner Art Gallery to support an exhibition and catalogue concerning John Hamilton Mortimer. Benedict Nicholson was commissed to work on this project and in his introduction to the catalogue he records that 'I am much indebted to Mrs Gilbert Benthall for giving me permission to make full use of her late husband's 'John Hamilton Morimter A R A, drawings and Engraved works with a Revised Account of his life' a manuscript reposing at the Victoria and Albert, along with other documents collected by Gilbert Benthall in the course of his detailed study of the artists's work'. It is possible that the Benthall archive material came to the Centre as part of this project.


None expected