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Rothenstein's role

Having ensured that the Collection was safely stored, John Rothenstein looked into ways of making best use of his talents until peace returned. With agreement from the Ministry of Information, he embarked on a lecture tour of America and Canada, with the aim of encouraging relations between the United States and Britain, and promoting British art.

One of the various activities assigned to me was the maintenance, and indeed the improvement of all Anglo-American relations in the art field... contemporary British art, or indeed any British art produced since, say the death of Turner is scarcely known outside the most limited circles.

John Rothenstein, Director's Report, Board Meeting Minutes, 21 May 1940

Rothenstein's tour was a great success. He lectured widely, broadcast on Canadian radio and gave press interviews. Invitations to speak poured in, and many useful contacts were made.

However, his continued absence began to be commented upon back in Britain. Many saw it as an abandonment of his duties. Five months into his tour he received a letter from the Treasury telling him that parliament had begun questioning his absence. Although the Trustees of the Gallery had continued to meet, minutes of the meetings had not been sent to him, apparently because of the uncertainty of his whereabouts. In April 1940, in response to increasing expressions of dissatisfaction at his absence, Rothenstein returned to Britain to take up his responsibilities.

On his return, Rothenstein visited the locations where the pictures were stored to check the works were safe and in September 1940, after heavy air raids on London, he and his wife moved into the Gallery at Millbank to oversee the building and the stored works remaining there.

Director's Report concerning visit to USA
Director's Report concerning
visit to USA

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