Papers relating to the Alfred Chester Beatty collections at the National Gallery of Ireland

Repository: National Gallery of Ireland

Identity Statement

TitlePapers relating to the Alfred Chester Beatty collections at the National Gallery of Ireland
Archive ReferenceIE NGI/BEA
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1949-1985
Extent Medium1 box, paper textual documents


Creator(s): National Gallery of Ireland

  • Administrative History ↴

    Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968) was born in New York; of Irish descent, his great grandfather came from Armagh city and his great grandmother from Mountrath, county Laois. Alfred Chester Beatty graduated as a mining engineer from Columbia University School of Mines and began work as a labourer in the mines in Colorado. Ten years later he was a mine owner and millionaire, though his health was impaired by silicosis. In 1911 his wife Grace died leaving him with two young children. He moved to London and bought Baroda house in Kensington park gardens. In 1912 he married Edith Dunn of New York. Together with his wife he visited Egypt, where he bought a house and spent many winters; his interest in Arabic manuscripts dates from this time. Beatty founded Selection Trust mining company in 1914 and during the 1920s it became extremely successful. Alfred Chester Beatty was often referred to as the 'King of Copper' for his exploitation of the copper mines in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). A collector since childhood, Beatty's art collections began with Chinese snuff bottles and he developed a fascination with the Orient following a journey to Japan and China in 1917. Chester Beatty, a naturalised British citizen since 1933, moved to Ireland in 1950 and bought a house in Ailesbury road, Dublin. He donated a large number of paintings and drawings to the Irish State and regularly loaned items from his collections to the National Gallery of Ireland when he was out of the country. He later loaned Impressionist paintings to the gallery and donated a Cezanne watercolour and a collection of miniatures. Owing to ill-health, he spent the winters in the South of France. In 1954 the Alfred Chester Beatty Library was opened at 20 Shrewsbury road making accessible to the public Beatty’s vast and priceless collection of Oriental art and Eastern manuscripts. That collection is now housed in the Alfred Chester Beatty museum at Dublin castle. Alfred Chester Beatty was made Ireland's first honorary citizen in 1957. He was given a State funeral in 1968 and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.
  • Archival History ↴

    Institutional archives
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: National Gallery of Ireland ↴

    Material relates to the donation and loan of items to the National Gallery of Ireland by Alfred Chester Beatty and the management by NGI of the collection of works donated to the State by Chester Beatty. Early material deals with receipt of the Alfred Chester Beatty donation of ninety three paintings from the Barbizon school to the Irish state, and the organisation of an accompanying National Gallery of Ireland exhibition and catalogue in 1950. Some of the pictures were subsequently loaned to other galleries and public bodies throughout Ireland – this material includes correspondence between NGI directors and the Department of the Taoiseach as to how to manage these loans. Included is a hardback ledger with record of loans to provincial galleries and Irish institutions from the Alfred Chester Beatty collection during the period 1952 to 1970. There are several letters from Alfred Chester Beatty in the 1950s and 1960s to Thomas MacGreevy, director of the National Gallery of Ireland, about donations, arrangements for the loan of Impressionist pictures and his ambitions for the arts in Ireland. Other correspondence deals with the Impressionist paintings, from the collection of his wife Edith (d.1952) which Beatty loaned to NGI. In 1959 Alfred Chester Beatty considers the question of the use of the Shaw Fund for a planned extension to the gallery. In the 1960s (under the directorship of James White) correspondence with government departments and other interested bodies continued on the subject of indemnities for the Alfred Chester Beatty works on loan. In 1976 the Alfred Chester Beatty collection is entrusted to the ‘care and custody’ of the National Gallery of Ireland following representations from the director. The 1985 papers contain correspondence with doctor Brian Kennedy about his forthcoming book on Alfred Chester Beatty and there is also a newspaper cutting of an article by Kennedy.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The material is arranged chronologically.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Access by appointment and in accordance with NGI Library and Archive access policy and Data Protection legislation.
Conditions Governing ReproductionMaterial may only be reproduced, in accordance with NGI Library and Archives access policy, with permission of the archivist, and in accordance with relevant Copyright legislation.
Creation Dates1949-1985
Extent Medium1 box, paper textual documents
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids NGI/BEA descriptive list available from reading room Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteDorothy Redmond
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottowa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions41091