Newly catalogued: papers of art historian Professor Marcia Pointon

Papers of art historian Professor Marcia Pointon have recently been catalogued and made available to researchers

Jane Donaldson writes about her recent work on the papers of Professor Marcia Pointon.

Papers relating to the distinguished historian of art, Professor Marcia Pointon have recently been catalogued and made available to researchers. Marcia Pointon is Professor Emerita in the History of Art at the University of Manchester and a Research Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. The archive is an important source for studies of the historiography of art history in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, documenting the development of the academic discipline of art history and the changing nature of scholarly communications during this period.

Professor Marcia Pointon

Marcia Pointon was born in 1943, the second daughter of Margaret Elsie and James Robert Verrall Collin, and was educated at the Quaker Ackworth School in Yorkshire, where her father taught. She obtained a BA in English and the History of Art in 1966 from the University of Manchester, followed by an MA in 1967 and a PhD in 1974. Professor Pointon taught at the University of Sussex and was appointed Professor of the History of Art in 1989. She returned to Manchester in 1992 as Pilkington Professor of the History of Art, and retired from the University of Manchester in 2002.

Professor Pointon began her career focusing on British and 19th-century French art.  Pointon’s professional interests range across many aspects of visual culture, imagery and representation in Western media from around 1700 to the present day. She has written extensively on portraiture, landscape, book illustration, the body in representation, gender and imagery and on the interrelations between the applied arts of jewellery and other forms of historical visual evidence.

Marcia Pointon, Brilliant Effects: A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009)

The collection contains Pointon’s research notes, draft manuscripts, corrected typescripts, proof copies for Pointon’s critical essays, journal articles, consultancy work and exhibition reviews. There is also correspondence with dealers, institutions, and publishers such as Cambridge, Oxford and Yale university presses, and with researchers for preparatory work, permissions and research requests. A small but significant set of correspondence is with the artist Paula Rego (MRP/2/30), alongside correspondence with other art historians including John Gage, Michael Rosenthal and Leo Steinberg. Pointon’s interdisciplinary interests generated correspondence with scholars in other fields such as Lindsay Smith (Victorian Studies) and Paolo Palladino (History of Science).

There is also extensive correspondence relating to Pointon’s PhD research on the artist William Dyce (1806-1864), dating between 1971 and 1981 which has been arranged alphabetically. This was later developed into the monograph William Dyce RA 1806-64: A Critical Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979). In her quest to track down the current locations of Dyce’s paintings and drawings and to identity sitters, Pointon corresponded with a wide range of custodians (both institutional and private), descendants of Dyce, and fellow art historians. Among the most notable correspondents was Quentin Bell, author and art critic, who was particularly supportive of Pointon’s work on Dyce.

The research folders contain material for virtually all of Pointon’s major publications, and relate to the prehistory of her published work, with conference papers, journal articles, reviews and newspaper articles. It details the intense amount of work required for the development of a publication including research, the need for obtaining permissions for use of material, payments and negotiations with various publishers, colleagues, and repositories. Among the archive are three manuscript notebooks compiled during research visits during Pointon’s student years. Within the pages there are a few delightful pen-drawn sketches of buildings she visited on research trips.

Marcia Pointon Notebook, ref. MRP/3/1.

The Library also holds the papers of Pointon’s mother, Margaret Collin, who toured the Soviet Union in 1937 during the height of Stalinism. More information about Professor Pointon’s papers, including a list of major published works, can be found on the library’s Elgar site.

John Hodgson is Head of Special Collections at The University of Manchester Library.

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