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The Courtauldian

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The Courtauld Institute of Art

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Pamela Tudor-Craig

September 17, 2019

This article was previously published in the special edition, ALUMNAE (December 2018).

 

1928 - 2017 

BA 1949, PhD 1952 

 

When thinking about the centenary of women winning the right to vote, ‘rebellion’ and ‘determination’ are words that spring to mind. These are themes embodied by Pamela Tudor-Craig when, as a student at The Courtauld, she defied then Director Professor Sir Anthony Blunt’s wishes and chose to study medieval art history against his will – she did not agree with his opinion that there was ‘no future’ in it, and has since thoroughly disproven this theory. Not only did Tudor-Craig go on to lead the study of medieval architecture, she was actively involved in its preservation: in 1982, Tudor-Craig founded the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust, which has since raised more than two million pounds, and, while teaching at the United States International University in London and its campus in East Sussex, she became chairman of the Sussex Historic Churches Trust.   

 

Her strong Christian faith and upbringing by nuns encouraged an interest in medieval art, which led her to do a BA at The Courtauld which she finished in 1949 and then a PhD in 1952. Shortly after completing a doctorate at the age of 23, she was on the committee organising an exhibition at the Society of Antiquaries, before being elected a Fellow of the Society in 1958 – she later served on its Council from 1989 to 1992 and in 2014 was recognised with the Society Medal.   

 

In 1973 Tudor-Craig curated the ground-breaking exhibition on Richard III at the National Gallery – her research was instrumental in uncovering the long-lasting propaganda efforts of the Tudors, challenging the perception of Richard as villainous and unworthy of reigning promoted by Thomas More, William Shakespeare, and Winston Churchill. Tudor-Craig’s first forays into television built on her work on Richard III, participating in the BBC’s 1976 series Second Verdict followed by ITV’s Trial of Richard III in 1982. Though primarily a medieval art historian, it was with work on early Renaissance paintings that she came to the forefront of public attention – her 1986 BBC series The Secret Life of Paintings and the book of the same name explored the hidden meaning of five pictures ranging from 1433 to 1533: Botticelli’s Primavera, Van Eyck’s Madonna and ChildSt George and the Dragon by Paulo Uccello, Bosch’s Christ Crowned with Thorns, and Holbein’s Ambassadors.   

 

 

 

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