Thomas Agnew & Sons
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Thomas Agnew & Sons is a fine arts dealer in London. The firm began in a print and publishing partnership with Vittore Zanetti in Manchester in 1817 which ended in 1835 when Agnew took full control. The firm opened a branch in London in 1860. The firm had a major role in the massive growth of a market for contemporary British art in the late 19th century. The firm closed in 2013.
The firm had long held a prominent position in the Bond Street trade in Old Master pictures. Agnew’s, as it is commonly called, also played a major role in promoting modern British art in the late-19th century.
The founder’s sons, Sir William Agnew, 1st Baronet (1825–1910) and Thomas Agnew (1827–1883), were pivotal in the firm’s rise in London, where Agnew’s first established itself in 1860. Broadly speaking, Sir William’s line produced the in-house connoisseurs (most notably C. Morland Agnew [1855–1931]), while Thomas’s son, W. Lockett Agnew (1858–1918), inherited his father’s commercial flair.
It was William Agnew who shifted the gallery trade to Old Masters. As The Times reporter noted in Sir William’s obituary, "in 1877 the firm had built rooms in 39 Old Bond Street (later called 43 Old Bond Street), and when the succession of Old Master exhibitions, the example of Sir Richard Wallace and the Rothschilds, and the revived passion for eighteenth-century architecture and furniture had turned the taste of the new rich men back to the older art, William Agnew was ready to find the pictures."
Agnew’s acted as principal agent and advisor to Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847–1927). The firm also held a significant part in the collecting activities of Alfred Beit(1853–1906), John G. Johnson (1841–1917), Alfred de Rothschild (1842–1918), Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898), Henry Clay Frick, and George Salting (1835–1909). Additionally, Agnew’s often served as agent for the National Gallery in the salerooms. More recently, important clients include Paul Mellon (1907–1999), Norton Simon (1907–1993), and the Samuel Henry Kress Foundation. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the firm was well regarded not only by the era’s leading collectors, but also by fellow dealers. Consequently, in Bond Street, Agnew’s enjoyed friendly relations with Knoedler, Arthur Joseph Sulley (1853–1930), the Wertheimer brothers, and in Paris, Charles Sedelmeyer (1837–1925).
During the remainder of the 20th century and up to today, Agnew’s has placed many masterpieces in major museums in Europe, America, and in emerging global markets. The contributions to the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, and the National Gallery, London, are noteworthy. The firm has handled major pictures by, amongst others, Caravaggio, John Constable, Van Dyck, El Greco, Guercino, Frans Hals, Poussin, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, Titian, J.M.W. Turner, and Velázquez, including the latter’s Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery, London.
Agnew's also exhibited and sold contemporary artists' works. In 2008, the purpose-built gallery in Old Bond Street (1877), designed by Salomons & Wornum, was sold by Agnew’s to Etro, the Italian fashion house.
In 2013, after nearly two centuries of family ownership, Agnew’s was purchased privately. Art historian Lord Anthony Crichton-Stuart was to run the London gallery. The Agnew family will continue as consulting participants in the firm’s operation. The archive was given to the National Gallery.
- Royal Academy of Arts Collections: Persons (Accessed August 2013)
- Chun, Dongho (2011) "Art Dealing in Nineteenth-Century England: The Case of Thomas Agnew", Horizons: The Seoul Journal of the Humanities, Vol. 2, No. 2 pp. 255-277
- Agnew, Lockett (September 2, 1899). "Letter from Agnew to Frick clarifying the shipment status of a picture by Reynolds ["Miss Puyeau"], in addition to Hoppner's "Miss Byng."" (Letter). Letter to Henry Clay Frick. Archived from the original on 2017-04-27.
- Agnew web site
- The National Gallery expands Research Centre through the acquisition of Agnew's archive on museum website
"Agnew's Gallery website". Thomas Agnew Ltd. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- Bendor Grosvenor, "Agnews to close", Art History News blog, February 2, 2013.
- Artkurio blog with press coverage of closure
- Thomas Agnew & Sons in Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America at The Frick Collection