Appeals: Witt library, Courtauld Institute

Joanna Gibbon
Friday 09 October 1992 23:02

(Photograph omitted)

A portrait of Sir Robert and Lady Witt (above) in their library at 32 Portman Square, London, oil on canvas 1930, by TC Dugdale. The picture now hangs at the Courtauld Institute of Art, in London, with the Witt Library, a large collection of photographs of works of art bequeathed by the Witts in 1944. The library, a charity, which is funded by London University through the Courtauld Institute, had its budget severely cut two months ago. It shared, annually, pounds 300,000 with the Conway Library, a smaller collection of photographs of architecture, sculpture and manuscripts; the figure has been reduced by a third and there is no guarantee that it will not be further reduced. It is appealing for donations to create an endowment fund of about pounds 3m to ensure its future.

The Witts began collecting as undergraduates in the 1890s: Robert Witt, an art collector, qualified as a solicitor and was a founder of the Courtauld Institute of Art; he wrote How to Look at Pictures in 1902. By 1920, when the first catalogue of artists represented in the library was published privately, the collection contained about 150,000 reproductions of 8,000 artists. It now contains photographs, reproductions and cuttings of paintings and drawings of Western art from about 1200 AD to the present day: there are 1.6 million reproductions of the work of 75,000 artists. It aims to represent well-known figures as well as minor ones. The reproductions are arranged by national school and then by artist in alphabetical order: information about the artist, title of work, location, provenance, size and medium, as well as catalogue and journal entries, is provided on each card. No judgements about attribution are made. The library also has a computer index which covers the American School, paintings owned by the Courtauld Collection and over 25,000 works of 18th-century British art by about 250 artists born between 1720 and 1740.

Some 15 to 20 people visit the Witt Library each day. No admission charge is levied. The Friends of the Courtauld Institute donate about pounds 40,000 to the library each year: this is absorbed into general costs. Since the budget cut the library has lost two members of staff. For further information, contact: The Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R ORN, telephone 071-872 0220.

The Meningitis Trust and Mencap are holding a fund-raising evening of poetry, music and dance tomorrow night at 7pm, at the Almeida Theatre, Almeida Street, London N1. Performers include Tasmin Little, who played solo violin at the last Proms, the poet Gavin Ewart and Malgorzata Armanowska, a soprano from Poland. About 100 tickets, priced pounds 25, will be available at the door. Today marks the beginning of Meningitis Awareness Week: the trust is keen to raise greater understanding and recognition of the disease, in its various types, as a prompt diagnosis allows a greater chance of full recovery. A new video, Understanding Meningitis, is available, price pounds 5, from the trust. Mencap, the Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, is the largest voluntary organisation in the UK providing support to adults and children with a mental handicap: it works through its divisional and district offices as well as 500 local societies.

National Meningitis Trust, Fern House, Bath Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 3TJ, telephone 0453 751738. Mencap National Centre, 123 Golden Lane, London EC1Y ORT, telephone 071-454 0454.

Age Concern, South Lakeland, has launched an appeal to raise money to refurbish St Thomas's Church Hall in the centre of Kendal. Demand the service, which is run by 200 volunteers for the welfare of the elderly population in South Lakeland, has grown considerably in the last three years. The church hall will provide a centre where people can meet for activities including dancing, keep fit, bowling, bridge, bingo, poetry- reading and dominoes; there will also be facilities for personal care - nailcutting, hairdressing and aromatherapy - as well as the provision of language, art and oral history classes. In addition, an Advice and Information service will offered so that people can discuss their problems in confidence and comfort. The cost of refurbishment and the purchase of a tail- lift minibus, to transport people from rural areas, is pounds 265,000.

Age Concern, South Lakeland, Central Office, 28a Finkle Street, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4AB, telephone 0539 728118.

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