Roy Strong bigraphy, stories - Art historian

Roy Strong : biography

23 August 1935 -

Sir Roy Colin Strong FRSL (born 23 August 1935) is an English art historian, museum curator, writer, broadcaster and landscape designer. He has been director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He was knighted in 1983.

Honorary positions

  • Chairman of the Art Department, Arts Council.
  • Deputy Chairman, Southbank Centre.
  • High Bailiff and Searcher of the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey, from 2000.
  • President, the Garden History Society, 2000-06.
  • President, the Friends of Croome Park, from 2008.


Early years

Roy Colin Strong was born in Winchmore Hill, North London and attended Edmonton County School in Edmonton.

He earned a first class honours degree in history at Queen Mary College, University of London. He then earned his Ph.D from the Warburg Institute, University of London and became a research fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. His passionate interest in the portraiture of Queen Elizabeth I was sidelined "while he wrote a thesis on Elizabethan Court Pageantry supervised by the Renaissance scholar, Dame Frances Yates who (he says) restructured and re-formed my thinking."Quad Alumni magazine #14,, Queen Mary College, June 2005, pp.6-8 In 2007 Strong listed his qualifications as DLitt PhD FSS.


National Portrait Gallery

He became assistant keeper of the National Portrait Gallery in 1959, and was its director 1967-73: Sir Roy came to prominence at age 32 when he became the youngest director of the National Portrait Gallery. He set about transforming its conservative image with a series of extrovert shows, including "600 Cecil Beaton portraits 1928-1968." Dedicated to the culture of the 1960s and 1970s, Sir Roy went on to amuse audiences at the V&A in 1974 with his collection of fedora hats, kipper ties and maxi coats. By regularly introducing new exhibitions he doubled attendance., BBC

Reflecting on his time as director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sir Roy Strong pinpoints the exhibition "Beaton Portraits 1928-1968" as a turning point in the gallery’s history. Strong chose fashion photographer Cecil Beaton as a catalyst for change says much about the glamour and appeal of the photographer’s work. But even so, it seems unlikely that anyone could have predicted the sheer scale of the exhibition’s success. "The public flocked to the exhibition and its run was extended twice. The queues to get in made national news. The Gallery had arrived", Strong wrote in the catalogue to Beaton Portraits, the more recent exhibition of Beaton that ran at the gallery until 31 May 2004.

Victoria & Albert Museum

In 1973, aged 38, he became the youngest director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London. In his tenure, until 1987, he presided over its The Destruction of the Country House (1974, with Marcus Binney and John Harris), Change and Decay: the future of our churches (1977), and The Garden: a Celebration of a Thousand Years of British Gardening (1979), all of which have been credited with boosting their conservationist agendas. In 1980, "he was awarded the prestigious Shakespeare Prize by the FVS Foundation of Hamburg in recognition of his contribution to the arts in the UK." He was awarded The Royal Photographic Society's President's Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography in 2003. Accessed 13 August 2012


In 2008 Strong hosted a six-part TV reality series . He acted as the Director of the fictitious Institute of Physical Culture, where nine volunteers spent 24 days testing three weight loss diets and fitness regimes that were popular in the late Victorian (William Banting) and Edwardian periods (Horace Fletcher) and the 'roaring' Twenties (Dr Lulu Hunt Peters). The weekly series was first aired on 18 March on Channel 4.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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