Arthur E. Popham

Arthur E. Popham, CB, FBA (1889–1970) was a British art historian, mainly focused on Italian art. Most of his life he worked at the British Museum and became especially renowned for his catalogue work. He was Keeper of Prints and Drawings from 1945 to his retirement from the museum in 1954.[1]

Hugh Popham
Portrait of Hugh Popham in uniform
Islington, London
Other names
Alma materCambridge University
OccupationArt historian

Personal lifeEdit

He was born Arthur Ewart Hugh Popham in Plymouth, England. His uncle was Ernest Radford and his aunt was the writer Ada Wallas.

He was educated at Cambridge University, at King's College. He duly graduated with an MA.[2][3]

He married Brynhild Olivier on 3 October 1912 and the couple had three children: Hugh Anthony, Anne Olivier (later: Mrs. Quentin Bell) and Tristram. They divorced in 1924, when this was still a matter of some social consequence and required a hearing in court.

He died in Islington, London in 1970.[4]


In 1912, Popham joined the Department of Prints and Drawings of the British Museum. In 1933, he was promoted to deputy keeper.[5] From 1945 to 1954, he served as Keeper of Prints and Drawings (i.e. head of the department).[1] On retirement, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).[6]

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Popham joined the Royal Naval Air Service. During his service, he was awarded the French Croix de guerre.[7] He moved to the Royal Air Force upon its creation in 1918 with the rank of captain.[1] During the war, he served in Europe, Egypt, and Palestine.[1]

Selected worksEdit

  • Arthur E. Popham: Catalogue of the Drawings of Parmigianino. 3 Vols. New Haven & London: Yale University Press 1971.


  1. ^ a b c d "Popham, Arthur Ewart". Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. 1 December 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
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  4. ^ Biography at "The Dictionary of Art Historians"
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  7. ^ "Royal Navy medals - Croix de Guerre". Retrieved 13 April 2019.