NPG - Papers of Sir Charles Holmes

Scope and Content

The following materials can be found in Sir Charles Holmes' papers:

- A series of diaries, primarily of a business nature and related to Holmes' work for the National Gallery and his activities in retirement, but they also contain an element of personal information, and sometimes ephemera such as press cuttings

- A series of notebooks, some of which supplement the diaries and some covering Holmes' employment at the National Portrait Gallery, giving brief notes on various events along with the date

-Congratulatory letter from Max Rothschild to Charles Holmes on his appointment as NPG Director

-A report on replicas in the Huntington Collection and in great public and private collections

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Charles John Holmes, K.C.V.O. (1868-1936) was born at Preston, Lancaster 11th November 1868, the elder son of Charles Rivington Holmes, a clergyman, and Mary Susan Holmes. Holmes was educated at Eton College from 1883, and gained a scholarship to Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1887. Holmes left Oxford in 1889 to work for one of his cousins at the publishing company Rivington and Co. He then moved to other publishing companies including Ballantyne's, Nimmo's, and The Vale Press.

He was also a landscape painter in oils and watercolours and many of his paintings were shown at the Tate Gallery. Whilst he was working in publishing he also became an art critic for the Athenaeum, and in 1904 he gave up publishing to become the editor and manager of The Burlington magazine. In 1904 he was also appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University, an office he held until 1910.

In 1909 Holmes was appointed the Director of the National Portrait Gallery. During his time at the Gallery he was responsible for redecorating the Gallery and re-hanging the pictures in more attractive and educational ways. Whilst at the Gallery he enlisted as an Able Seaman in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve for anti aircraft work during the First World War.

In 1916 Holmes was appointed the Director of the National Gallery. He retired from the National Gallery in 1928, and devoted himself to painting and writing an autobiography, and also served as artistic consultant at Wedgwood.

Holmes published several books on subjects including Hokusai, Constable and Rembrandt. Holmes was knighted in 1921 and awarded the K.C.V.O. in 1928.

In 1903 Holmes married his cousin Florence Hill Rivington, and they had two sons, Martin and Robin.

He died on 7th December 1936 at his home in Kensington aged 68.

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.

Other Finding Aids

The complete catalogue for this archive can be searched via the NPG Archive Catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

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