FORD, Richard, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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Richard Ford wants to move the National Gallery

FORD, Richard (1796-1858). Critic and author.
Autograph notes of his views as to the possible removal of the National Gallery from Trafalgar Square, 3 pages 4to, c.1856. Endorsed by William Mure (1799-1860, classical scholar and MP) 'R. Ford - Suggestions' and by another in pencil '1853 - Nat. Gall'. Together with three Autograph Letters Signed from Ford to Mure, 3 pages 8vo, 1849, 1850 and 1853.

In December 1856 Mure agreed to be appointed a member of a House of Commons committee 'to determine the site of the National Gallery and to report on the desirableness of combining with it the Fine Art and Archaeological Collection of the British Museum'. He was, however, obliged to withdraw his consent to act after only a few days, on the grounds of ill health.

Hansard reports a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Gladstone) on 27 June 1856 ('That Committee investigated the subject with a full knowledge of the results of the inquiries of previous Commissions and Committees, and they came to a distinct Resolution in favour of the removal of the National Gallery from its present position, which they embodied in these words, - "That the site of the present National Gallery is not well adapted for the construction of a new gallery."')

It is evident from the present manuscript that Mure relied heavily on the views of Richard Ford, which are expressed in no uncertain terms:

'Position Except that it is central (a questionable advantage[,] the present very bad: one of the noisiest dirtiest most frequented spots of London: idlers are tempted in by open doors & a gratis show[.] It is the refuge & a rendezvous for soldiers and nursery maids: no such thing exists abroad where population is smaller & air cleaner, & galleries, larger ...' etc. etc.

Ford goes on in a similar vein to suggest that a suburban situation would be more satisfactory; that funds of £5 to £10,000 a year should be provided; that the Gallery should not attempt to economise on purchases of pictures ('do it handsomely'); that the population should be educated; that the present system of unpaid trustees should be abolished and a 'chief' (preferably only one) be appointed with a salary of £1,000 to £1,100 a year; that purchases should be 'artistical' rather than archaeologial and laĻ*  er than small; and as a parting shot 'Beware of hampering your Director with too powerful a secretary'.

The three letters of Ford accompanying the manuscript portray a friendly social relationship with Mure, and the letter of 2 July 1853 conveys his agreement to speak (in parliament) 'If you like to ask me a question about the recent purchase of the Georgione'. None of these letters are to be found in The Letters of Richard Ford 1797-1858, ed. Rowland E. Prothero, 1905.
[No: 26597]

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