Ronald Brymer Beckett, research notes on portraits by Sir Peter Lely

Scope and Content

Research notes in the form of Index slips, bound into 5 volumes, containing notes relating to portraits by Sir Peter Lely. Compiled by Ronald Brymer Beckett and relates to his catalogue Lely (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951). The content of notes varies but can include a description of the portrait, size of the portrait, information on where the portrait was when Beckett was doing his work and details of any engravings which exist. Volumes 1-4 contain index slips arranged alphabetically by sitter. Volume 5 contains index slips relating to genre subjects, arranged alphabetically by title.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ronald Brymer Beckett (1891-1970) was born in Yorkshire. He attended Lincoln College, Oxford and on graduating he entered the Indian Civil Service, arriving in Bombay shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. He was assistant commissioner at Jullundur, attempts to join the war effort were blocked by his superiors, when he did return in 1917 he was passed not fit for the army.

He joined the Middle Temple and read for the bar, though was not called until November 1936. In January 1919 Beckett returned to India as was posted to Amritsar as city magistrate. Beckett later worked in Rawalpindi and Lahore, he collected Indian art and sculpture, his collection of Mughal miniatures being sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York in the 1960s.

Beckett retired and returned to Britain in 1946, he took up a course at University College London studying psychology and philosophy; he also pursued his interest in art. He put on an exhibition of the work of William Blake and William Hogarth at the Tate Gallery, London and published pioneering catalogues of the works of Hogarth (1949) and Sir Peter Lely (1951). His art historical research culminated with his publication of John Constable's correspondence (1962-68), Kenneth Clark describing it as a masterpiece of editing. Much of his research was carried out through buying drawings and paintings of English artists so he could learn to spot the differences between genuine and fake.

Beckett married Norah Ford Anderson in 1918, they had two daughters together. Beckett died at home in 1970.

This biographical description is largely based on Elisabeth Beckett, 'His Honour Ronald Brymer Beckett' [ accessed 06/02/2018]

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.

Conditions Governing Use

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