The Hugh Blaker Journals

Hugh Oswald Blaker 1873-1936
Artist, Collector and Connoisseur

Can you help locate Hugh Blaker’s journals?
They were last thought to be in Washington DC.

HUGH BLAKER (1873-1936) is best remembered today for his role as art adviser to the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies of Gregynog Hall, near Newtown in Wales, UK. It was on his recommendation that the sisters purchased many of the nineteenth-century French paintings and sculptures, as well as a number of Old Masters, that they bequeathed to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff. But consultant was only one of Blaker’s roles. He was at times a painter, writer, critic, museum curator, art dealer, connoisseur, collector and indefatigable advocate of modernist tendencies in the visual arts.

Blaker’s few extant writings paint a detailed portrait of their author. He was passionate, open minded yet opinionated, at times cynical and always radical. They provide a fascinating insight into a truly modern individual. He was an avid diarist.

The Missing Journals

On his death in 1934, the Blaker journals were inherited by his sister Jane who wrote to her youngest brother Cyril of ‘the journals, a hotch-potch of every subject and, of course, much that has happened in the art world’. When Jane died in 1947 the journals, as well as her brother’s letters and library, were bequeathed to his friend, the artist Murray Urquhart (1880-1972). The journals were in Urqhuart’s possession in 1963 when he edited and published ‘The Blaker Diary: Some Extracts with a Memoir by Murray Urquhart’ for Apollo (London: October 1963, pp.293-98).

In the 1970s Urquhart, by then in his 90s, frail and forgetful, explained that many years previously an American had written to him expressing an interest to read the journals. He mailed the diaries to the United States of America and they were never seen again. Urquhart claimed to have sent the journals to Charles Woods, 116½ Maryland Drive, Washington DC. But this address does not appear to exist. Did it ever exist? Can you help? Do you know the whereabouts of the journals or can provide a lead? Robert Meyrick, who continues to write, publish and lecture on Hugh Blaker, and has curated a touring exhibitions of his paintings, would be most very pleased to hear from you.

The Hugh Blaker Journals 1931-1936

Responding to the above appeal, I was contacted in 2010 by someone whose family came from Meopham in Kent. Her parents had been friends there with Murray Urquhart and his wife Muriel. In their later life the Urquharts became very frail but still remained independent. Eventually they moved into a care home in Maidstone. After their deaths, there must have been a house clearance and two volumes of the Blaker journals covering the years 1931 to 1936, together with a Blaker drawing and a typed MSS of a novel by Blaker titled The Nut – A Satire, ended up in a junk shop in Gravesend. Here they we discovered and rescued some forty years ago by the brother of the person who contacted me.

But where are the many journals compiled by Hugh Blaker up until 1931? Were they send to America after all, or did they also find their way to a Gravesend junk shop? My search continues …

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