Anthony Blunt : biography
Anthony Frederick Blunt (26 September 1907 – 26 March 1983),GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1983 15 2186 WESTMINSTER – Anthony Frederick Blunt, DoB = 26 Sep 1907 known as Sir Anthony Blunt, KCVO from 1956 to 1979, when he was stripped of his honours, was a British art historian who was exposed as a Soviet spy late in his life.
Blunt was Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Surveyor of the King's Pictures in London. He was exposed as a member of the Cambridge Five, a group of spies working for the Soviet Union from some time in the 1930s to at least the early 1950s.
He won a scholarship in mathematics to Trinity College, Cambridge. At that time, scholars in Cambridge University were allowed to skip Part I of the Tripos and complete Part II in two years. However, they could not earn a degree in less than three years,Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer, by Peter Wright, Toronto 1987, Stoddart Publishers. and hence Blunt spent four years at Trinity and switched to Modern Languages, eventually graduating in 1930 with a first class degree. He taught French at Cambridge and became a Fellow of Trinity College in 1932. His graduate research was in French art history and he travelled frequently to continental Europe in connection with his studies.
Like Guy Burgess, Blunt was known to be homosexual, which was a criminal activity at that time in Britain. Both were members of the Cambridge Apostles (also known as the Conversazione Society), a clandestine Cambridge discussion group of 12 undergraduates, mostly from Trinity and King's Colleges who considered themselves to be the brightest minds in the university. Many were homosexual and Marxist at that time. Amongst other members, also later accused of being part of the Cambridge spy ring, were the American Michael Whitney Straight and Victor Rothschild who later worked for MI5.Cambridge Forecast Group 22 September 2010 Rothschild gave Blunt £100 to purchase Eliezar and Rebecca by Nicholas Poussin.Rose (2003), pp47-48. The painting was sold by Blunt's executors in 1985 for £100,000 (totalling £192,500 with tax remission) and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Career as an art historian
Throughout the time of his activities in espionage, Blunt's public career was in the History of Art, a field in which he gained prominence. In 1940, most of his fellowship dissertation was published under the title of Artistic Theories in Italy, 1450–1600. In 1945, he was given the esteemed position of Surveyor of the King's Pictures, and later the Queen’s Pictures (after the death of King George VI in 1952), one of the largest private collections in the world. He held the position for 27 years, was knighted as a KCVO in 1956 for his work in the role, and his contribution was vital in the expansion and cataloguing of the Queen’s Gallery, which opened in 1962.
In 1947, Blunt became both Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, and the director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, where he had been lecturing since the spring of 1933, and where his tenure in office as director lasted until 1974. This position included the use of a live-in apartment on the premises.Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt, by Barrie Penrose and Simon Freeman, 1987. During his 27 years at the Courtauld Institute, Blunt was respected as a dedicated teacher, a kind superior to his staff. His legacy at the Courtauld was to have left it with a larger staff, increased funding, and more space, and his role was central in the acquisition of outstanding collections for the Courtauld's Galleries. He is often credited for making the Courtauld what it is today, as well as for pioneering art history in Britain, and for training the next generation of British art historians.
In 1953, Blunt published his book Art and Architecture in France, 1500–1700, and he was in particular an expert on the works of Nicolas Poussin, writing numerous books and articles about the painter, and serving as curator for a landmark exhibition of Poussin at the Louvre in 1960, which was an enormous success.Miranda Carter Anthony Blunt: His Lives, 2001. He also wrote on topics as diverse as William Blake, Pablo Picasso, the Galleries of England, Scotland, and Wales. He also catalogued the French drawings (1945), G. B. Castiglione and Stefano della Bella drawings (1954) Roman drawings (with H. L. Cooke, 1960) and Venetian (with Edward Croft Murray, 1957) drawings in the collection of the Queen, as well as a supplement of Addenda and Corrigenda to the Italian catalogues (in E. Schilling's German Drawings).
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