Collection ID: MSS 54

Collection context


Arnold, Elizabeth, 1939-, Ashton, Leigh, 1897-1983, Bell, Clive, 1881-1964, Bell, Vanessa, 1879-1961, Clark, Kenneth, 1903-1983, Clayton, Muriel, Courtauld, Samuel, 1876-1947, Denney, Anthony, 1913-1990, Dick, William Reid, 1879-1961, Dodgson, Campbell, 1867-1948, Evans, J. H., Gardner, H. Vernon, Gielgud, John, 1904-2000, Gregory, Eric, 1887-1959, Hall, Evelyn F., Hambleden, William Smith, Viscount, 1903-1948, Hardie, Martin, 1875-1952, Hughes, George Ravensworth, Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight), 1890-1954, Korda, Alexander, Sir, 1893-1956, Laver, James, 1899-1975, Lawson, Vivien, Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957, Maclagan, Eric Robert Dalrymple, 1879-1951, Marlow, Reginald Herbert, Mitchison, Naomi, 1897-1999, Monck, Walter Nugent Bligh, 1878-1958, Mortimer, Raymond, 1895-1980, Nash, John, 1893-1977, Phillips, Fred P., 1880-, Pope, G. R., Rackham, Bernard, 1876-1964, Raverat, Gwen, 1885-1957, Read, Herbert, 1893-1968, Robinson, Edward G., 1893-1973, Rothenstein, William, 1872-1945, Rutherston, Albert, 1881-1953, Schwabe, Randolph, 1885-1948, Simmonds, W. G. (William George), 1876-1968, Wellington, Hubert, 1879-, Wilenski, R. H. (Reginald Howard), 1887-1975, Willcock, J. P., and Royal College of Art (Great Britain). Sketch Club
The collection includes the correspondence of and with various secretaries of the Royal College of Art (RCA) Students' Group, or Sketch Club, and contains 79 letters and postcards and 11 draft letters, written between 1934 and 1937. The materials focus primarily on the group's annual exhibition, and discuss the facilities, invite prominent figures, and solicit donations and judges for special prizes. The letters' authors include, in addition to the groups' secretaries, several notable artistic and literary figures in 1930s England, such as Wyndham Lewis, Kenneth Clark, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, and John Gielglud.
.42 Linear Feet


Acquisition information:
Yale Center for British Art, Friends of British Art.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Scope and Content:

The collection includes 79 letters and postcards, and 11 draft letters, pertaining to the Royal College of Art Students' Group, or Sketch Club, written between 1934 and 1937. The letters concern the logistics of the group's annual exhibition, held at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The correspondence consists primarily of replies to solicitations written by secretaries of the RCA. In the replies, the authors--typically individuals involved in fine art, art and literary criticism, and museums--discuss their willingness to attend the show, or to sponsor and judge prizes for different categories of artistic production.

The letters offer insight into the various media used by students at the RCA and those valued by their correspondents, and into the continuing involvement of some of the figures with artistic education. Types of prizes mentioned include those in set design, theatrical costume, painting, embroidery, notebook sketches, posters, and ceramics. Some of the correspondents also express their enthusiasm for the RCA, such as painter and author Wyndham Lewis, while others express thoughts related to artistic practice, such as theater director Nugent Monck, who stresses the importance of responding to commissions. Most letters address the logistical details of funding and judging prizes.

Biographical / Historical:

The Government School of Design, predecessor to the Royal College of Art, was founded in 1837. Its goal, in its earliest years, was to train students in techniques vital to improving industrial and everyday products in England; this mission would evolve in various ways under ensuing directors, and per the demands of the students themselves. By 1896, when the school was renamed the Royal College of Art, the school had assimilated the influence of the Arts and Crafts Movement and embraced a broader vision of art and design.

During the first few decades of the twentieth century, new leadership brought ever more shifts in the mission of the RCA. The painter William Rothenstein became Principal in 1920 and began to shift the school's emphasis towards the study of fine art, and the training of designers, rather than teachers. In the words of sculptor Henry Moore: "he changed the college completely." In 1935, painter Percy Jowett succeeded Rothenstein as head of the RCA, continuing an approach more interested in the cultivation of new artistic styles and methods, rather than preserving traditional techniques. It was under the post-war reorganization of Robin Darwin, however, that the RCA fully embraced fine art and became a driving force in British post-war art.

During the 1930s, The Royal College of Art Students' Group, or Sketch Club, held annual exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert Museum, displaying students' work and awarding prizes for different genres and themes. The secretaries of the group included Frank B. Mason; J. Anthony Denney, later a fashion photographer for British Vogue; Margaret Kaye, an artist who worked in textiles and stained-glass; and Evelyn Hunt, a painter.


The letters are arranged alphabetically, by the name of letter authors.

  • Cunliffe-Charlesworth, Hilary. "The Royal College of Art: Its Influence on Education, Art, and Design, 1900-1950." Dissertation, Sheffield City Polytechnic, 1991.
  • Frayling, Christopher. Art and Design: 100 years at the Royal College of Art. London: Collins & Brown, 1999.
  • Frayling, Christopher, and Claire Catterall, eds. Design of the Times: One Hundred Years of the Royal College of Art. Somerset: Richard Dennis Publications, 1996.
  • McDowell, Felice. "The Influence of Anthony Denney": Authorship in the Production and Consumption of British Fashion Media in the Late 1950s." Photography and Culture 8.3 (November 2015): 253-267.
  • Royal College of Art. The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 Years of the Royal College of Art. London: Royal College of Art, 2012.
  • Thorp, Juliet. "Darwin's Dream: The Significance of Painting and Its Collection at the Royal College of Art, 1948-1998." Master's Thesis, The Royal College of Art, 2012.
  • Windsor, Alan. "Margaret Kaye." The Independent, March 26, 2002.

Indexed Terms

Art, British -- 20th Century
Art, British -- Exhibitions -- 20th Century
Art -- Awards -- Great Britain
Art -- Competitions -- Great Britain
Art -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Great Britain
Art schools -- Great Britain -- 20th Century
Art students -- Great Britain -- 20th Century
Costume -- Great Britain -- 20th Century
Drawing, British -- 20th Century
Embroidery -- Great Britain -- 20th Century
Painting, British -- 20th Century
Sculpture, British -- 20th Century
Theaters -- Stage-setting and scenery -- Great Britain -- 20th Century
Royal College of Art (Great Britain). Sketch Club
Royal College of Art (Great Britain) -- Students -- Exhibitions
Victoria and Albert Museum
Árnason, Barbara, 1911-1975 -- Correspondence
Arnold, Elizabeth, 1939- -- Correspondence
Ashton, Leigh, 1897-1983 -- Correspondence
Bawden, Edward, 1903-1989 -- Correspondence
Bell, Clive, 1881-1964 -- Correspondence
Bell, Vanessa, 1879-1961 -- Correspondence
Clark, Kenneth, 1903-1983 -- Correspondence
Clayton, Muriel -- Correspondence
Cohen, Dennis, 1891-1970 -- Correspondence
Courtauld, Samuel, 1876-1947 -- Correspondence
Denney, Anthony, 1913-1990 -- Correspondence
Dick, William Reid, 1879-1961 -- Correspondence
Enthoven, Gabrielle, 1868-1950 -- Correspondence
Evans, J. H. -- Correspondence
Gardner, H. Vernon -- Correspondence
Gielgud, John, 1904-2000 -- Correspondence
Gregory, Eric, 1887-1959 -- Correspondence
Hall, Evelyn F. -- Correspondence
Hambleden, William Smith, Viscount, 1903-1948 -- Correspondence
Hardie, Martin, 1875-1952 -- Correspondence
Hughes, George Ravensworth -- Correspondence
Hunt, Evelyn Janet, 1914-2001 -- Correspondence
Jago, Joseph -- Correspondence
John, Augustus, 1878-1961 -- Correspondence
Kauffer, E. McKnight (Edward McKnight), 1890-1954 -- Correspondence
Kaye, Margaret, 1912-2002 -- Correspondence
Korda, Alexander, Sir, 1893-1956 -- Correspondence
Laver, James, 1899-1975 -- Correspondence
Lawson, Vivien -- Correspondence
Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957 -- Correspondence
Maclagan, Eric Robert Dalrymple, 1879-1951 -- Correspondence
Marlow, Reginald Herbert -- Correspondence
Mason, Frank B. -- Correspondence
Mitchison, Naomi, 1897-1999 -- Correspondence
Monck, Walter Nugent Bligh, 1878-1958 -- Correspondence
Mortimer, Raymond, 1895-1980 -- Correspondence
Nash, John, 1893-1977 -- Correspondence
Phillips, Fred P., 1880- -- Correspondence
Pope, G. R. -- Correspondence
Rackham, Bernard, 1876-1964 -- Correspondence
Raverat, Gwen, 1885-1957 -- Correspondence
Ravilious, Eric William, 1903-1942 -- Correspondence
Read, Herbert, 1893-1968 -- Correspondence
Robinson, Edward G., 1893-1973 -- Correspondence
Rothenstein, William, 1872-1945 -- Correspondence
Rutherston, Albert, 1881-1953 -- Correspondence
Schwabe, Randolph, 1885-1948 -- Correspondence
Simmonds, W. G. (William George), 1876-1968 -- Correspondence
Wellington, Hubert, 1879- -- Correspondence
Wilenski, R. H. (Reginald Howard), 1887-1975 -- Correspondence
Willcock, J. P. -- Correspondence


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