Behind The Scenes

Archives & Access project: Germana Girelli discovers a fascinating story in a collection of letters Transforming Tate Britain, Archives & Access

While processing material for the Archives & Access project, Preservation Volunteer Germana Girelli came across a heartwarming story in a series of letters between a gallery director and a teenager who had a dream of working with art

Letter from Marcus Burton to Kenneth Clark

Letter from Marcus Burton to Kenneth Clark
Copyright Marcus Burton 1944

Letter from Kenneth Clark to Marcus Burton

Letter from Kenneth Clark to Marcus Burton 

My name is Germana Girelli and I am a preservation volunteer for the Tate Britain Archives & Access project.

My main duties are handling and housing archive material such as documents, letters, photographs and sketchbooks. Past work experience in a film archive gave me an understanding of what preservation means and how to handle fragile material. It is a really fascinating experience to work with rare and delicate materials and to be part of this huge and important project.

We started with Kenneth Clark’s work as an art historian and writer. He was particularly well known for being a director at National Gallery in 1934 and during the war.

I discovered, going through his correspondence, a few letters which completely amazed me!

During the war, Kenneth Clark was also Chairman of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee and he helped struggling artists to become involved in art. Marcus Burton, a fourteen year-old boy with ‘an ambition to work among pictures’, wrote to Kenneth Clark asking for a job or work experience at the National Gallery. His perseverance and interest in art at such a young age were so impressive that I couldn’t stop reading his letters.

He gets the opportunity he hoped for at the National Gallery but, unfortunately, the war and illness prevented him from committing to it for a while. During his recovery he expressed an interest in studying art and Kenneth Clark provided him with books about artists and art history.

I was particularly touched reading those letters because you can really get into their lives and have a better idea of the past. I am looking forward to discovering and learning more about new collections and being involved in new, interesting and amazing stories!

See also