£40k for Marxist art historian's archives

The private papers of leading Marxist art historian, Francis Klingender, are to be sold at Bonhams Printed Books and Maps sale in Oxford on February 23.

An avowed Communist, Klingender was kept under security surveillance from the early 1930s onwards. During the Second World War he was excused from military service because of ill-health and instead joined the Ministry of Home Security as a statistician.  

Ironically, his security file was reviewed by fellow communist and Soviet spy, Anthony Blunt.

Then working as an M15 officer, Blunt concluded that Klingender's beliefs were essentially intellectual and that he was "quite confident that he would not do anything disloyal to this country."

Despite subsequent contact with both Blunt and Guy Burgess, a fellow member of the Cambridge spy ring who defected to the Soviet Union in 1951, there is no suggestion that Klingender himself was ever involved in espionage.

Klingender's archive provides a fascinating insight into his personal and academic life and those of the times in which he lived.

The material features family papers from his childhood in Germany and a collection of over 70 political cartoons by, among others, Gilray and Hogarth, which formed the basis of his book, Hogarth and the English caricature published in 1944.

In 1948 he donated an important collection of caricatures to the British Museum.

"Klingender was a significant figure in art history at a time when intellectual and cultural debate had a much greater influence on wider political thinking than it does now," said David Park, Bonhams Head of Books, Maps and Manuscripts.

"He was deeply interested in the role of political cartoons in fighting tyranny and the caricatures in the Bonhams auction bears out this fascination."

The archive, which is being sold in separate lots, has an estimated value of around £40,000.


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