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Ref No IE TCD MSS 6910-7079
Title Thomas Bodkin (1887-1961) papers, 1911-1967
Creation Dates 1911-1967
Extent And Medium 101 archival boxes
Level Of Description Collection
Author Bodkin, Thomas, 1887-1961
Admin Biographical History Professor Thomas Patrick Bodkin (July 21, 1887 – April 24, 1961) was an Irish lawyer, art historian, art collector and curator. Bodkin was Director of the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin from 1927 to 1935 and founding Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham from 1935 until 1952.

Bodkin was born in Dublin, the eldest son of Matthias McDonnell Bodkin, a nationalist journalist, judge and Member of Parliament. Graduating from the Royal University of Ireland in 1908 he practiced law from 1911 until 1916 while collecting art privately, influenced by his uncle Sir Hugh Lane. With the death of Lane in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, Bodkin was charged with ensuring that Lane's collection of art was displayed in Dublin - a dispute that would only finally be settled in 1957.

Bodkin left the legal profession in 1916 to become a Governor of the National Gallery of Ireland, being appointed Director in 1927. He also served in 1926 on the committee that commissioned the design of the new coinage of the Republic of Ireland from Percy Metcalfe.

In 1935 Bodkin left Ireland on being appointed Director of the newly-established Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Barber Professor of Fine Art at the University of Birmingham. The funds available to the Barber Institute for the purchase of new works compared favourably even to some national museums and Bodkin was able to make a string of exceptional purchases in the depressed art market around the time of the Second World War. The collection that in 1935 had numbered just seven works, by 1939 held major pieces such as Tintoretto's Portrait of a Youth (1554), Simone Martini's St. John the Evangelist (1320), Poussin's Tancred and Erminia (1634) and Whistler's Symphony in White No. III (1867). Bodkin retired in 1952 but retained control over acquisitions until 1959.

Bodkin was also an active broadcaster and author, publishing personal reminiscences and translations of modern French poetry as well as works of art history and criticism.
Scope And Content The papers of Thomas Bodkin (1887-1961) - lawyer, art historian, art collector and curator - contain documentation and correspondence relating to his publications and broadcasts, his involvement in the world of art, his career and social life. Bodkin practised as barrister-at-law from 1911-16; he was secretary to the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland (1916-35); a governor and guardian of the National Gallery of Ireland from 1917, and director from 1927-35. From 1935-52 he was first director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham, and Professor of Fine Arts. He remained as adviser on purchases until 1959. The collection documents his involvement with other institutions, particularly in Ireland, including the Coinage Commission (1926), the National Library and National Nuseum of Ireland, and Trinity College Dublin, where he was Honorary Professor of History of Art from 1930 until his death in 1961.Among a wide circle of correspondents are Arnold Bennett, William Cosgrave, John A. Costello, Oliver St John Gogarty, Lady Gregory, Sir Hugh Lane, George Moore, James Stephens and Jack B. and W.B. Yeats.
Arrangement The sub-fonds contained in this collection are: Works; Art; Career (Ireland and England); Other Correspondence; and Personal.
Document T.C.D.MSS6910-7079BODKIN.pdf
Access Conditions Please contact
Copyright Please contact
Language English
Related Material Further Bokin papers are held at: University of Birmingham Library; National Library of Ireland, Dublin; and University of Glasgow Library
There is a small collection of supplementary material which contains some writings, printed research material, sales catalogues, some poetry (published), and a copper etching plate of a painting (?Sean Keating's Men of the South). These were given a separate accession number MS 11640
Public Note Kenneth Garlick, ‘Bodkin, Thomas Patrick (1887–1961)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University
A. Kelly, ‘Thomas Bodkin at the National Gallery of Ireland’, Irish Arts Review Yearbook, 8 (1991–2), 171–80
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