Algernon Graves (1845 - 1922)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Algernon Graves was a writer on art, born on 24 February 1845 at 6 Pall Mall, London, the second son of the print publisher Henry Graves (1806-1892) and his first wife, Mary Squire (d. 1871). He trained at the family firm of Henry Graves & Co. and ran the business after his father’s death. In his spare time he undertook research for catalogues of the work of the English painters, Sir Edwin Landseer RA (1875), Samuel Cousins RA (1887) and Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (with W. V. Cronin; 1899–1901). Graves also supplied engravings for a book about the exhibited and engraved works of Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA (1900) and another to accompany an exhibition of sixty of Lawrence’s drawings (1913) held at the Edward Gallery, 26 King Street, London.

Graves’s best-known and most innovative publications are lists enumerating works of art exhibited in various London venues. The most substantial of which covered the Royal Academy of Arts exhibitions from 1769 to 1904. Exhibiting artists are listed alphabetically, with the works they exhibited recorded chronologically under each name. Dictionaries compiled by Graves include:

A Dictionary of Artists who have Exhibited Works in the Principal London Exhibitions from 1760 to 1880 (1884), revised and enlarged (to include more venues and exhibitions up to 1893) in 1895 and 1901.

The Royal Academy of Arts: a Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their Work from its Foundation in 1769 to 1904, (1905–6 in 8 vols).

The Society of Artists of Great Britain 1760-91. The Free Society of Artists 1761-83 : a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from the foundation of the societies to 1791. (1907)

The British Institution, 1806-1867 : a complete dictionary of contributors and their work from the foundation of the Institution. (1908).

A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813–1912 (1913–15, in 5 vols).

Graves’s publications were notable for the new information they contained. In The Royal Academy of Arts, for example, Graves thanked the Earl of Rosebery for permission to study his set of catalogues annotated by Horace Walpole, and in his A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA. (1899–1901) Graves stated that he was the first to utilize information from the artist’s payment ledgers (which he owned) and from private sources, including Reynolds’s descendants.

Graves died on 5 February 1922 at his home, 77 New Cavendish Street, Marylebone, and was buried three days later at Brompton cemetery.


Born: 24 February 1845 in London

Died: 5 February 1922

Gender: Male

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