Ref NoBS/2/1
TitleAnthony Blunt
Admin/Biog HistoryBlunt, Anthony Frederick (1907-1983), art historian, was born in Bournemouth, Dorset on 26 September 1907, the third and youngest son of the Revd Arthur Stanley Vaughan Blunt (1870-1929), vicar, and his wife, Hilda Violet (1880-1969), daughter of Henry Master of the Madras Civil Service. He was a third cousin of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900-2002), the late Queen Mother, and a fourth cousin once removed of Sir Oswald Edward Mosley (1896-1980), 6th Baronet, and leader of the British Union of Fascists.

Blunt's early childhood was spent in Paris where he became fluent in French and the culture there stimulated a life-long interest in art. He was educated at Marlborough College and, in 1930, went on to graduate with a First class honours degree in Modern Languages from Trinity College, Cambridge. It was here that Blunt first met fellow students Guy Burgess (1911-1963) and Donald Maclean (1913-1983), and where they were allegedly recruited to spy for the NKVD (The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) during the early 1930s.

In 1933, Blunt became a lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art and, in 1937 he became general editor for the publications of the Warburg Institute, University of London. At the start of the Second World War in 1939, Blunt joined the British Army's Intelligence Corps. In 1940 he was recruited by MI5 where he eventually attained the rank of Major.

In 1945 Blunt was appointed Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, succeeding Kenneth Clark in the role. He also helped to re-open the Courtauld Institute of Art after the war and, in 1947, he became Director and was made Professor of Art History at the University of London. Blunt began to transform the Courtauld Institute of Art into a reputable school of art history, attracting scholars from the Warburg Institute. It was during this period that Blunt first came under suspicion of spying for the Russians, following the defection of Burgess and Maclean to Russia. However, these suspicions were not substantiated and in 1956, Blunt was made Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by Queen Elizabeth II.

Between 1955-1958, Sewell attended the Courtauld Institute of Art where he was taught by Blunt. After he graduated, Blunt assisted him in obtaining cataloguing work at the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, and afterwards at Christie's. Their master-pupil relationship developed into a lasting friendship following a chance meeting in 1959 in Rome where they were both on holiday. From that time on, Sewell accompanied Blunt as both a friend and colleague on several trips abroad, and Blunt encouraged his young friend's career in the arts.

In 1970 Sewell learnt from Andrew Gow (1886-1978) that Blunt was a spy but it did nothing to damage their friendship: he accompanied Blunt to hospital appointments, assisted him in buying a flat, and during the year before Blunt was publicly exposed as a spy, the pair spoke daily on the telephone and lunched regularly. Following the announcement in the House of Commons in November 1979 by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) regarding Blunt's wartime role, Sewell shielded his friend from the scrutiny of the press and acted as his unofficial spokesperson. This announcement changed both of their lives: Blunt was stripped of his academic titles, honorary degrees and knighthood, and Sewell became a media figure. However, Blunt continued with his career by writing about art history and the pair remained good friends until he died of a heart attack at home on 26 March 1983.

The media interest in Blunt continued long after his death. Sewell was often contacted for his opinion, he wrote letters and articles in Blunt's defence, and collected newspaper articles and related materials about his friend for many years.
DescriptionThis material was created and collected by Sewell and his mother, Jessica Sewell, following Blunt's exposure as a spy in 1979, although it does not contain any correspondence exchanged between Sewell and Blunt.

The material comprises:

-correspondence written and received after Blunt's death
-images
-newspaper cuttings concerning Blunt and Sewell
Date1979-2010
LevelSeries
Extent6 files
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