Anthony Blunt

Last updated

Anthony Blunt
Anthony Blunt.jpg
Anthony Frederick Blunt

(1907-09-26)26 September 1907
Died26 March 1983(1983-03-26) (aged 75)
Westminster, London
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Art historian, professor, writer, spy
Spying career
AllegianceFlag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
Codename(s)Tony [1]
 Johnson [2]
 Yan [3]

Anthony Frederick Blunt (26 September 1907 – 26 March 1983), [4] known as Sir Anthony Blunt, KCVO, from 1956 to 1979, was a leading British art historian who in 1964, after being offered immunity from prosecution, confessed to having been a Soviet spy.

Royal Victorian Order series of awards in an order of chivalry of the United Kingdom

The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood established in 1896 by Queen Victoria. It recognises distinguished personal service to the monarch of the Commonwealth realms, members of the monarch's family, or to any viceroy or senior representative of the monarch. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is the Sovereign of the order, its motto is Victoria, and its official day is 20 June. The order's chapel is the Savoy Chapel in London.

Art history the academic study of objects of art in their historical development

Art history is the study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts; that is genre, design, format, and style. The study includes painting, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, furniture, and other decorative objects.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk.


Blunt had been a member of the Cambridge Five, a group of spies working for the Soviet Union from some time in the 1930s to at least the early 1950s. His confession, a closely held secret for many years, was revealed publicly by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1979. He was stripped of his knighthood immediately thereafter.

Cambridge Five former ring of spies in the United Kingdom

The Cambridge Spy Ring was a ring of spies in the United Kingdom, who passed information to the Soviet Union during World War II and was active at least into the early 1950s. None were ever prosecuted for spying. The number and membership of the ring emerged slowly from the 1950s onwards. As far as the general public was concerned, this started with the sudden flight of Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess to the Soviet Union in 1951. Suspicion immediately fell on Kim Philby, but he did not follow them until 1963. Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross confessed to British intelligence but this remained secret for many years, until 1979 in the case of Blunt. It therefore took several years for the usual modern name to evolve through the Cambridge Four to the Cambridge Five. In the innermost circles of the KGB, they were supposedly known as the Magnificent Five.

Espionage or spying, is the act of obtaining secret or confidential information without the permission of the holder of the information. Spies help agencies uncover secret information. Any individual or spy ring, in the service of a government, company or independent operation, can commit espionage. The practice is clandestine, as it is by definition unwelcome and in many cases illegal and punishable by law. Espionage is a method of "intelligence" gathering which includes information gathering from public sources.

Margaret Thatcher former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold that office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her "The 'Iron Lady'", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies known as Thatcherism.

Blunt was Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures. His 1967 monograph on the French Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin is still widely regarded as a watershed book in art history. [5] His teaching text and reference work Art and Architecture in France 1500–1700, first published in 1953, reached its fifth edition in a slightly revised version by Richard Beresford in 1999, when it was still considered the best account of the subject. [6]

University of London federal public university in London, United Kingdom

The University of London is a collegiate federal research university located in London, England. As of October 2018, the university contains 18 member institutions, central academic bodies and research institutes. The university has over 52,000 distance learning external students and 161,270 campus-based internal students, making it the largest university by number of students in the United Kingdom.

Courtauld Institute of Art college of the University of London

The Courtauld Institute of Art, commonly referred to as The Courtauld, is a self-governing college of the University of London specialising in the study of the history of art and conservation. It is among the most prestigious institutions in the world for these disciplines and is widely known for the disproportionate number of directors of major museums drawn from its small body of alumni.

The office of the Surveyor of the King's/Queen's Pictures, in the Royal Collection Department of the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom, is responsible for the care and maintenance of the royal collection of pictures owned by the Sovereign in an official capacity – as distinct from those owned privately and displayed at Sandringham House and Balmoral Castle and elsewhere. The office has only been full-time since 1972. It now operates in a professional capacity with a staff of a dozen people.

Early life

Blunt was born in Bournemouth, Dorset, the third and youngest son of a vicar, the Revd (Arthur) Stanley Vaughan Blunt (1870–1929), and his wife, Hilda Violet (1880–1969), daughter of Henry Master of the Madras civil service. He was the brother of writer Wilfrid Jasper Walter Blunt and of numismatist Christopher Evelyn Blunt, and the grandnephew of poet Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.

Bournemouth Place in England

Bournemouth is a large coastal resort town on the south coast of England, east of the 96 miles (155 km) long Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. At the 2011 census, the town had a population of 183,491, making it the largest in Dorset. With Poole to the west and Christchurch in the east, Bournemouth is part of the South East Dorset conurbation, which has a population of 465,000.

Dorset County of England

Dorset is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast. The ceremonial county comprises the non-metropolitan county, which is governed by Dorset County Council, and the unitary authority areas of Poole and Bournemouth. Covering an area of 2,653 square kilometres (1,024 sq mi), Dorset borders Devon to the west, Somerset to the north-west, Wiltshire to the north-east, and Hampshire to the east. The county town is Dorchester which is in the south. After the reorganisation of local government in 1974 the county's border was extended eastward to incorporate the Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch. Around half of the population lives in the South East Dorset conurbation, while the rest of the county is largely rural with a low population density.

Wilfrid Jasper Walter Blunt (1901–1987) was an art teacher, author, artist and curator of the Watts Gallery at Compton, Surrey (1959–83).

He was a third cousin of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mother: his mother was the second cousin of Elizabeth's father Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. On occasions, Blunt and his two brothers, Christopher and Wilfrid, took afternoon tea at the Bowes-Lyons' London home at 17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, the birthplace of Queen Elizabeth II. [7] [ unreliable source? ]

Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne British Earl

Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th and 1st Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne,, styled as Lord Glamis from 1865 to 1904, was a British peer and landowner who was the father of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the maternal grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.

He was fourth cousin once removed of Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley (1896–1980) 6th Baronet, leader of the British Union of Fascists, both being descended from John Parker Mosley (1722–1798).

Blunt's father, a vicar, was assigned to Paris with the British embassy chapel, and moved his family to the French capital for several years during Anthony's childhood. The young Anthony became fluent in French and experienced intensely the artistic culture closely available to him, stimulating an interest which lasted a lifetime and formed the basis for his later career. [8]

He was educated at Marlborough College, where he joined the college's secret 'Society of Amici', [9] in which he was a contemporary of Louis MacNeice (whose unfinished autobiography The Strings are False contains numerous references to Blunt), John Betjeman and Graham Shepard. He was remembered by historian John Edward Bowle, a year ahead of Blunt at Marlborough, as "an intellectual prig, too preoccupied with the realm of ideas". Bowle thought Blunt had "too much ink in his veins and belonged to a world of rather prissy, cold-blooded, academic puritanism". [8]

Cambridge University

He won a scholarship in mathematics to Trinity College, Cambridge. At that time, scholars in Cambridge University were allowed to skip Part I of the Tripos and complete Part II in two years. However, they could not earn a degree in less than three years, [10] hence Blunt spent four years at Trinity and switched to Modern Languages, eventually graduating in 1930 with a first class degree. He taught French at Cambridge and became a Fellow of Trinity College in 1932. His graduate research was in French art history and he travelled frequently to continental Europe in connection with his studies. [8]

Like Guy Burgess, Blunt was known to be homosexual, [11] which was a criminal offence at the time in Britain. Both were members of the Cambridge Apostles (also known as the Conversazione Society), a clandestine Cambridge discussion group of 12 undergraduates, mostly from Trinity and King's Colleges who considered themselves to be the brightest minds in the university. Many were homosexual and Marxist at that time. Amongst other members also later accused of being part of the Cambridge spy ring were the American Michael Whitney Straight and Victor Rothschild, who later worked for MI5. [12] Rothschild gave Blunt £100 to purchase Eliezar and Rebecca by Nicolas Poussin. [13] The painting was sold by Blunt's executors in 1985 for £100,000 (totalling £192,500 with tax remission [14] ) and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum. [15]

Recruitment to Soviet espionage

There are numerous versions of how Blunt was recruited to the NKVD. As a Cambridge don, Blunt visited the Soviet Union in 1933, and was possibly recruited in 1934. In a press conference, Blunt claimed that Guy Burgess recruited him as a spy. [16] Many sources suggest that Blunt remained at Cambridge and served as a talent-spotter. He may have identified Burgess, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, John Cairncross and Michael Straight – all undergraduates at Trinity College (except Maclean at the neighbouring Trinity Hall), a few years younger than he – as potential spies for the Soviets. [17]

Blunt said in his public confession that it was Burgess who converted him to the Soviet cause, after both had left Cambridge. [18] Both were members of the Cambridge Apostles, and Burgess could have recruited Blunt or vice versa either at Cambridge University or later when both worked for British intelligence.

Joining MI5

With the invasion of Poland by German and Soviet forces, Blunt joined the British Army in 1939. During the phoney war he served in France in the intelligence corps. When the Wehrmacht drove British forces back to Dunkirk in May 1940, he was evacuated by the Royal Navy. During that same year he was recruited to MI5, the Security Service. [8] Before the war MI5 employed mostly former Indian policemen, for it was in India that the British Empire faced security threats. MI5 may have known Blunt's views, for an officer later claimed that it had been virtually running the Communist Party of Great Britain and complained about the cost of pension payments to its retired infiltrators. [19]

Blunt passed the results of Ultra intelligence from decrypted Enigma intercepts of Wehrmacht radio traffic from the Russian front. He also admitted to passing details of German spy rings, operating in the Soviet Union. Ultra was primarily working on the Kriegsmarine naval codes, which eventually helped win the Battle of the Atlantic, but as the war progressed Wehrmacht army codes were also broken. Sensitive receivers could pick up transmissions, relating to German war plans, from Berlin. There was great risk that, if the Germans discovered their codes had been compromised, they would change the settings of the Enigma wheels, blinding the codebreakers.

Full details of the entire Operation Ultra were fully known by only four people, only one of whom routinely worked at Bletchley Park. Dissemination of Ultra information did not follow usual intelligence protocol but maintained its own communications channels. Military intelligence officers gave intercepts to Ultra liaisons, who in turn forwarded the intercepts to Bletchley Park. Information from decoded messages was then passed back to military leaders through the same channels. Thus, each link in the communications chain knew only one particular job and not the overall Ultra details. Nobody outside Bletchley Park knew the source. [20]

John Cairncross, another of the Cambridge Five, was posted from MI6 to work at Bletchley Park. Blunt admitted to recruiting Cairncross and may well have been the cut-out between Cairncross and the Soviet contacts. For although the Soviet Union was now an ally, Russians were not trusted. Some information concerned German preparations and detailed plans for the Battle of Kursk, the last major German offensive on the Eastern Front. Malcolm Muggeridge, himself a wartime British agent, recalls meeting Kim Philby and Victor Rothschild, a friend of Blunt since Trinity College, Cambridge. He reported that at the Paris meeting in late 1955 Rothschild argued that much more Ultra material should have been given to Stalin. For once, Philby reportedly dropped his reserve, and agreed. [21]

During the war, Blunt attained the rank of major. [8] In the final days of World War II in Europe, Blunt made a successful secret trip to Schloss Friedrichshof in Germany to retrieve sensitive letters between the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis. [10] [22] King George VI asked Blunt, who worked part-time at the Royal Library, to conduct the Royal Librarian, Owen Morshead, to Friedrichshof in March 1945 to liberate letters to the Empress Victoria, a daughter of Queen Victoria, and mother to Kaiser Wilhelm. Papers rescued by Morshead and Blunt were deposited in the Royal Archives. [23]

Suspicion and secret confession

Some people knew of Blunt's role long before his public exposure. In 1948, demobilised army officer Philip Hay attended an interview at Buckingham Palace for the post of private secretary to the Dowager Duchess of Kent. After passing Blunt in a corridor, Sir Alan Lascelles, the King's private secretary, told Hay: "That's our Russian spy." [7] [ unreliable source? ]

According to MI5 papers released in 2002, Moura Budberg, known as the Russian Mata Hari and suspected of being a double agent, reported in 1950 that Blunt was a member of the Communist Party, but this was ignored. According to Blunt himself, he never joined because Burgess persuaded him that he would be more valuable to the anti-fascist crusade by working with Burgess. He was certainly on friendly terms with Sir Dick White, the head of MI5 and later MI6, in the 1960s, and they used to spend Christmas together with Victor Rothschild in Rothschild's Cambridge house. [24]

His NKVD control had also become suspicious at the sheer amount of material he was passing over and suspected him of being a triple agent. Later, he was described by a KGB officer as "ideological shit". [24]

With the defection of Burgess and Maclean to Moscow in May 1951, Blunt came under suspicion. He and Burgess had been friends since Cambridge. Maclean was in imminent danger due to decryptions from Venona as the messages were decrypted. Burgess returned on the Queen Mary to Southampton after being suspended from the British Embassy in Washington for his conduct. He was to warn Maclean, who now worked in the Foreign Office but was under surveillance and isolated from secret material. Blunt collected Burgess at Southampton Docks and took him to stay at his flat in London, although he later denied that he had warned the defecting pair. Blunt was interrogated by MI5 in 1952, but gave away little, if anything. [8] Arthur Martin and Jim Skardon had interviewed Blunt 11 times since 1951, but Blunt had admitted nothing.

Blunt was greatly distressed by Burgess's flight and, on 28 May 1951, confided in his friend Goronwy Rees, a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, who had briefly supplied the NKVD with political information in 1938–39. Rees suggested that Burgess had gone to the Soviet Union because of his violent anti-Americanism and belief that America would involve Britain in a Third World War, and that he was a Soviet agent. Blunt suggested that this was not sufficient reason to denounce Burgess to MI5. He pointed out that "Burgess was one of our oldest friends and to denounce him would not be the act of a friend." Blunt quoted E. M. Forster's belief that country was less important than friendship. He argued that "Burgess had told me he was a spy in 1936 and I had not told anyone." [25] Blunt was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1956 by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1963, MI5 learned of Blunt's espionage from an American, Michael Straight, whom he had recruited. Blunt confessed to MI5 on 23 April 1964, and Queen Elizabeth II was informed shortly thereafter. [10] He also gave up John Cairncross, Peter Ashby, Brian Symon and Leonard Henry (Leo) Long as spies. Long had also been a member of the Communist Party and an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge. During the war he served in MI14 military intelligence in the War Office, with responsibility for assessing German offensive plans. He passed analyses but not original material relating to the Eastern Front to Blunt. [26]

In return for Blunt's full confession, the British government agreed to keep his spying career an official secret for fifteen years, and granted him full immunity from prosecution. [27] According to the memoir of MI5 officer Peter Wright, Wright had regular interviews with Blunt from 1964 onwards for six years. Prior to that, he had a briefing with Michael Adeane, the Queen's private secretary, who told Wright: "From time to time you may find Blunt referring to an assignment he undertook on behalf of the Palace – a visit to Germany at the end of the war. Please do not pursue this matter. Strictly speaking, it is not relevant to considerations of national security." [28]

Blunt's life was little affected. In 1966, two years after his secret confession, Noel Annan, provost of King's College, Cambridge, held a dinner party for Labour Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, Ann Fleming, widow of James Bond author Ian Fleming, and Victor Rothschild and his wife Tess. The Rothschilds brought their friend and lodger – Blunt. All had had wartime connections with British Intelligence; Jenkins at Bletchley Park. [29]

Public exposure

Blunt's role was represented under the name Maurice in Andrew Boyle's book Climate of Treason in 1979. Maurice was taken from the E. M. Forster novel of that name. Blunt tried to prevent the book's publication, which was reported in the magazine Private Eye . This drew attention to Blunt. [30] In the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher revealed Blunt's wartime role, firstly on Thursday 15 November 1979, [31] and in more detail on 21 November. [32] Sir Bernard Ingham, Thatcher's press secretary, suggested, "I believe she did it because she didn't see why the system should cover things up. This was early in her prime ministership. I think she wanted to tell the civil service that the politicians decide policy, not the system. She wanted them to know who was boss." [7] [ unreliable source? ]

In a statement to the newsmedia on 20 November, Blunt claimed the decision to grant him immunity from prosecution was taken by the then prime minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home. [33]

For weeks after Thatcher's announcement, Blunt was hunted by the press. Once found, he was besieged by photographers. Blunt had recently given a lecture at the invitation of Francis Haskell, Oxford University's professor of art history. Haskell had a Russian mother and wife and had graduated from King's College, Cambridge. To the press this made him an obvious suspect. They repeatedly telephoned Haskell's home in the early hours of the morning, using the names of his friends and claiming to have an urgent message for "Anthony". [34]

Although Blunt was outwardly calm, the sudden exposure shocked him. His former pupil, art critic Brian Sewell, said at the time, "He was so businesslike about it; he considered the implications for his knighthood and academic honours and what should be resigned and what retained. What he didn't want was a great debate at his clubs, the Athenaeum and the Travellers. He was incredibly calm about it all." [24] Sewell was involved in protecting Blunt from the extensive media attention after his exposure, and his friend was spirited away to a flat within a house in Chiswick. [35]

Queen Elizabeth II stripped Blunt of his knighthood, [33] and in short order he was removed as an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College. [36] Blunt resigned as a Fellow of the British Academy after a failed effort to expel him; three fellows resigned in protest against the failure to remove him. [37] He broke down in tears in his BBC Television confession at the age of 72. [33]

Blunt died of a heart attack at his London home in 1983, aged 75.


Blunt withdrew from society and seldom went out after his exposure. His friend Tess Rothschild suggested that he occupy his time writing his memoirs. Brian Sewell, his former pupil, said they remained unfinished because he had to consult the newspaper library in Colindale, North London, to check facts. He was unhappy at being recognised.

"I do know he was really worried about upsetting his family," said Sewell. "I think he was being absolutely straight with me when he said that if he could not verify the facts there was no point in going on." Blunt stopped writing in 1983, leaving his memoirs to his partner, John Gaskin, who kept them for a year and then gave them to Blunt's executor, John Golding, a fellow art historian. [7] [ unreliable source? ]

Golding passed them on to the British Library, insisting that they not be released for 25 years. [38] It was finally made available to readers on 23 July 2009. [39] Golding explains: "I did so because, although most of the figures mentioned were dead, their families might not like it. It covers his Cambridge days and there are a number of names. They weren't all spies, but communism was common amongst intellectuals in the Thirties." [7] [ unreliable source? ]

In the typed manuscript, Blunt conceded that spying for the Soviet Union was the biggest mistake of his life. [40]

What I did not realise is that I was so naïve politically that I was not justified in committing myself to any political action of this kind. The atmosphere in Cambridge was so intense, the enthusiasm for any anti-fascist activity was so great, that I made the biggest mistake of my life. [11]

The memoir revealed little that was not already known about Blunt. When asked whether there would be any new or unexpected names, John Golding replied: "I'm not sure. It's 25 years since I read it, and my memory is not that good." Although ordered by the KGB to defect with Maclean and Burgess to protect Philby, in 1951 Blunt realised "quite clearly that I would take any risk in [Britain], rather than go to Russia." [40] After he was publicly exposed, he claims to have considered suicide but instead turned to "whisky and concentrated work". [40]

Career as an art historian

Throughout the time of his activities in espionage, Blunt's public career was as an art historian, a field in which he gained eminence. In 1940, most of his fellowship dissertation was published under the title of Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450–1600, which remains in print. In 1945, he was given the distinguished position of Surveyor of the King's Pictures, and later the Queen's Pictures (after the death of King George VI in 1952), in charge of the Royal Collection, one of the largest and richest collections of art in the world. He held the position for 27 years, was knighted as a KCVO in 1956 for his work in the role, and his contribution was vital in the expansion of the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, which opened in 1962, and organizing the cataloguing of the collection.

In 1947, Blunt became both Professor of the History of Art at the University of London, and the director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, where he had been lecturing since the spring of 1933, [41] and where his tenure in office as director lasted until 1974. This position included the use of a live-in apartment on the premises, then at Home House in Portman Square. [42] During his 27 years at the Courtauld Institute, Blunt was respected as a dedicated teacher, a kind superior to his staff. His legacy at the Courtauld was to have left it with a larger staff, increased funding, and more space, and his role was central in the acquisition of outstanding collections for the Courtauld's Galleries. He is often credited for making the Courtauld what it is today, as well as for pioneering art history in Britain, and for training the next generation of British art historians.

In 1953, Blunt published his book Art and Architecture in France, 1500–1700 in the Penguin History of Art (later taken over by Yale UP), and he was in particular an expert on the works of Nicolas Poussin, writing numerous books and articles about the painter, and serving as curator for a landmark exhibition of Poussin at the Louvre in 1960, which was an enormous success. [8] He also wrote on topics as diverse as William Blake, Pablo Picasso, the Galleries of England, Scotland, and Wales. He also catalogued the French drawings (1945), G. B. Castiglione and Stefano della Bella drawings (1954) Roman drawings (with H. L. Cooke, 1960) and Venetian (with Edward Croft-Murray, 1957) drawings in the Royal Collection, as well as a supplement of Addenda and Corrigenda to the Italian catalogues (in E. Schilling's German Drawings).

Blunt attended a summer school in Sicily in 1965, leading to a deep interest in Sicilian Baroque architecture, and in 1968 he wrote the only authoritative and in-depth book on Sicilian Baroque . From 1962 he was engaged in a dispute with Sir Denis Mahon regarding the authenticity of a Poussin work which rumbled on for several years. Mahon was shown to be correct. Blunt was also unaware that a painting in his own possession was also by Poussin. [8] It has been suggested that Blunt could not accept that Poussin may have produced inferior work.[ citation needed ]

Notable students who have been influenced by Blunt include Aaron Scharf, photography historian and author of 'Art and Photography' (whom Blunt assisted, along with Scharf's wife, in escaping McCarthy condemnation for their support of communism), Brian Sewell (an art critic for the Evening Standard ), [43] Ron Bloore, Sir Oliver Millar (his successor at the Royal Collection and an expert on Van Dyck), Nicholas Serota, Neil Macgregor, the former editor of the Burlington magazine, former director of the National Gallery and former director of the British Museum who paid tribute to Blunt as "a great and generous teacher", [44] John White (art historian), Sir Alan Bowness (who ran the Tate Gallery), John Golding (who wrote the first major book on Cubism), Reyner Banham (an influential architectural historian), John Shearman (the "world expert" on Mannerism and the former Chair of the Art History Department at Harvard University), Melvin Day (former Director of National Art Gallery of New Zealand and Government Art Historian for New Zealand ), Christopher Newall (an expert on the Pre-Raphaelites), Michael Jaffé (an expert on Rubens), Michael Mahoney (former Curator of European Paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and former Chair of the Art History Department at Trinity College, Hartford), Lee Johnson (an expert on Eugène Delacroix), and Anita Brookner (an art historian and novelist).

Among his many accomplishments, Blunt also received a series of honorary fellowships, became the National Trust's picture adviser, curated exhibitions at the Royal Academy, edited and wrote numerous books and articles, and sat on many influential committee in the arts.

After Margaret Thatcher had exposed Blunt's espionage, he continued his art history work by writing and publishing a Guide to Baroque Rome (1982). He intended to write a monograph about the architecture of Pietro da Cortona but he died before realising the project. His manuscripts were sent to the intended co-author of this work, German art historian Jörg Martin Merz by the executors of his will. Merz published a book, Pietro da Cortona and Roman Baroque Architecture in 2008 incorporating a draft by the late Anthony Blunt.

Many of his publications are still seen today by scholars as integral to the study of art history. His writing is lucid, and places art and architecture in their context in history. In Art and Architecture in France, for example, he begins each section with a brief depiction of the social, political and/or religious contexts in which works of art and art movements are emerging. In Blunt's Artistic Theory in Italy, 1450–1600, he explains the motivational circumstances involved in the transitions between the High Renaissance and Mannerism.


A festschrift, Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art presented to Anthony Blunt on his 60th Birthday, Phaidon 1967 (introduction by Ellis Waterhouse), contains a full list of his writings up to 1966.

Major works include:

Important articles after 1966:

A Question of Attribution is a play written by Alan Bennett about Blunt, covering the weeks before his public exposure as a spy, and his relationship with Queen Elizabeth II. After a successful run in London's West End, it was made into a television play directed by John Schlesinger and starring James Fox, Prunella Scales and Geoffrey Palmer. It was aired on the BBC in 1991. This play was seen as a companion to Bennett's 1983 television play about Guy Burgess, An Englishman Abroad .

Blunt: The Fourth Man is a 1985 film starring Ian Richardson, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Williams, and Rosie Kerslake, covering the events of 1951 when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean went missing.

The Untouchable , a 1997 novel by John Banville, is a roman à clef based largely on the life and character of Anthony Blunt; the novel's protagonist, Victor Maskell, is a loosely disguised Blunt, although some elements of the character are based on Louis MacNeice. [45]

"I.M. Anthony Blunt" is a poem by Gavin Ewart, cleverly attempting a humane corrective to the hysteria over Blunt's fall from grace. Published in Gavin Ewart, Selected Poems 1933-1993 , Hutchenson, 1996 (reprinted Faber and Faber, 2011).

A Friendship of Convenience: Being a Discourse on Poussin's "Landscape With a Man Killed by a Snake", is a 1997 novel by Rufus Gunn set in 1956 in which Blunt, then Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, encounters Joseph Losey, the famous film director fleeing McCarthyism. [46]

Samuel West portrayed Blunt in Cambridge Spies , a 2003 four-part BBC television drama concerning the lives of the Cambridge Four from 1934 to the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to the Soviet Union.

Related Research Articles

Kim Philby British spy and KGB double agent for the Soviet Union

Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a double agent before defecting to the Soviet Union in 1963. He served as both an NKVD and KGB operative.

John Cairncross British intelligence officer and spy for the Soviet Union

John Cairncross was a British civil servant who became an intelligence officer and spy during the Second World War. As a Soviet double agent, he passed to the Soviet Union the raw Tunny decrypts that influenced the Battle of Kursk. He was alleged to be the fifth member of the Cambridge Five.

Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell and N M Rothschild & Sons, an advisor to the Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher governments of the UK

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild, was a senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell and N M Rothschild & Sons, an advisor to the Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher governments of the UK, as well as a member of the prominent Rothschild family.

Guy Burgess British diplomat and Soviet agent, member of the Cambridge Five

Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess was a British diplomat and Soviet agent, belonging to the Cambridge Five spy ring that operated from the mid-1930s to the early years of the Cold War. His defection in 1951 to the Soviet Union, with his fellow spy, Donald Maclean, led to a serious breach in Anglo-American intelligence co-operation, and caused long-lasting disruption and demoralisation in Britain's foreign and diplomatic services.

The Cambridge Apostles is an intellectual society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar.

Donald Maclean (spy) British diplomat and spy

Donald Duart Maclean was a British diplomat and member of the Cambridge Five, who acted as traitors for the Soviet Union.

An Englishman Abroad is a 1983 BBC television drama film, based on the true story of a chance meeting of actress Coral Browne, with Guy Burgess, a member of the Cambridge spy ring who spied for the Soviet Union while an officer at MI6. The production was written by Alan Bennett and directed by John Schlesinger; Browne stars as herself.

Yuri Modin was the KGB controller for the "Cambridge Five" from 1948 to 1951, during which Donald Duart Maclean was said to have passed atomic secrets to the Soviets. In 1951, Modin arranged the defections of Maclean and Guy Burgess. Modin's predecessors in control of the damaging Cambridge spy ring were executed during Stalin's Great Purge.

<i>Cambridge Spies</i> television series

Cambridge Spies is a four-part BBC television drama, broadcast on BBC2 in May 2003, concerning the lives of the best-known quartet of the Cambridge Five Soviet spies, from 1934 to the 1951 defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to the Soviet Union. The series was written by Peter Moffatt and directed by Tim Fywell. The complete series was released on DVD on 2 June 2003. Viewing figures for the series averaged at 2 million per episode.

Michael Whitney Straight was an American magazine publisher, novelist, patron of the arts, a member of the prominent Whitney family, and a confessed spy for the KGB.

Goronwy Rees was a Welsh journalist, academic and writer.

A Question of Attribution is a 1988 one-act stage play, written by Alan Bennett. It was premièred at the National Theatre, London, in December 1988, along with the stage version of An Englishman Abroad. The two plays are collectively called Single Spies.

The Untouchable (novel) 1997 John Banville novel

The Untouchable is a 1997 novel by the Irish writer John Banville. The book is written as a roman à clef, presented from the point of view of the art historian, double agent and homosexual Victor Maskell—a character based largely on Cambridge spy Anthony Blunt and in part on Irish poet Louis MacNeice. The character of Guy Burgess is prominent and easily identifiable, that of Maclean plays a minor role only.

Norman John Klugmann, generally known as James Klugmann, was a leading British Communist writer who became the official historian of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Denis Mahon English art historian and collector

Sir John Denis Mahon, was a British collector and historian of Italian art. Considered to be one of the few art collectors who was also a respected scholar, he is generally credited, alongside Sacheverell Sitwell and Tancred Borenius, with bringing Italian pre-Baroque and Baroque painters to the attention of English-speaking audiences, reversing the critical aversion to their work that had prevailed from the time of John Ruskin.

Michael William Lely Kitson was an art historian who became an international authority on the work of the painter Claude Lorrain.

Edith Tudor-Hart Soviet spy and photographer

Edith Tudor-Hart was an Austrian-British photographer, communist-sympathiser and spy for the Soviet Union. Some of her work is in the National Gallery in London. Brought up in a family of socialists, she trained in photography at Walter Gropius's Bauhaus in Dessau, and carried her political ideals through her art. Through her connections with Arnold Deutsch, Tudor-Hart was instrumental in the recruiting of the Cambridge Spy ring which damaged British intelligence from World War II until their discovery in the late 1960s. She recommended Litzi Friedmann and Kim Philby for recruitment by the KGB and acted as an intermediary for Anthony Blunt and Bob Stewart when the rezidentura at the Soviet Embassy in London suspended its operations in February 1940.

George Jerzy Zarnecki, CBE, FBA, FSA was a Polish Professor of Art history. He was a scholar of Medieval art and English Romanesque sculpture, an area of study where he did pioneering research.

<i>Single Spies</i> 1988 stage play written by Alan Bennett

Single Spies is a 1988 stage play written by English playwright Alan Bennett. It consists of two acts, An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution.


  1. Carter 2001, p. 180.
  2. Carter 2001, p. 302.
  3. Carter 2001, p. 319.
  4. GRO Register of Deaths: MAR 1983 15 2186 WESTMINSTER – Anthony Frederick Blunt, DoB = 26 September 1907; Varriano 1996.
  5. Shone, Richard and Stonard, John-Paul, eds. The Books that Shaped Art History, Introduction. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.
  6. Hopkins, Andrew (2000). "Review of Art and Architecture in France 1500-1700 by Anthony Blunt, Richard Beresford", The Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 31, no. 2 (Summer), pp. 633-635. JSTOR   2671729.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Levy, Geoffrey (27 June 2009). "Last secrets of the Queen Mother's favourite traitor: Memoirs of society spy Anthony Blunt could rock Royals". Daily Mail Online . Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Carter, Miranda (2001). Anthony Blunt: His Lives. London: Macmillan. ISBN   9780330367660.
  9. Hinde, Thomas (1992). Paths of Progress: A History of Marlborough College. London: James & James. ISBN   9780907383338.
  10. 1 2 3 Wright, Peter (1987). Spycatcher: The Candid Autobiography of a Senior Intelligence Officer. Toronto: Stoddart Publishers. ISBN   9780773721685.
  11. 1 2 Pierce, Andrew; Adams, Stephen (22 July 2009). "Anthony Blunt: confessions of spy who passed secrets to Russia during the war - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph . London: TMG. ISSN   0307-1235. OCLC   49632006 . Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  12. Cambridge Forecast Group, 22 September 2010
  13. Rose (2003), pp.47-48.
  14. "Eliezer and Rebecca by Nicolas Poussin". Art Fund. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  15. Fitzwilliam Museum – OPAC Record Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Press Conference of Anthony Blunt. YouTube. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  17. Carter 2001, pp. 106–107.
  18. BBC Television, 16 November 1979
  19. Hennessy, Peter (2002). The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War. London: Allen Lane. ISBN   0-7139-9626-9.
  20. Hinsley, F. H.; Stripp, Alan, eds. (2001). Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780192801326.
  21. Boyle, Anthony (1982). The Climate of Treason. London: Hutchinson. ISBN   9780091430603.
  22. Higham, Charles (1988). The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishers. pp. 388–389. ISBN   9780070288010.
  23. Bradford, p. 426
  24. 1 2 3 "Scholar, gentleman, prig, spy", The Observer , London, 11 November 2001
  25. Rees, Goronwy (1972). A Chapter of Accidents. London: Chatto & Windus.
  26. Mrs Margaret Thatcher, The Prime Minister (9 November 1981). "Mr. Leo Long (Written Answers)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . House of Commons. col. 40W–42W.
  27. Burns, John F. "Memoirs of British Spy Offer No Apology" The New York Times, 23 July 2009.
  28. Wright (1987), p.223.
  29. The Daily Mail, London, 27 June 2009
  30. The Daily Telegraph, London, 22 July 2009
  31. Mrs Margaret Thatcher, The Prime Minister (15 November 1979). "Security (Written Answers)". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . House of Commons. col. 679W–681W.
  32. Mrs Margaret Thatcher, The Prime Minister (21 November 1979). "Mr. Anthony Blunt". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard) . House of Commons. col. 402–520.
  33. 1 2 3 "1979: Blunt revealed as 'fourth man'". BBC. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  34. Penny, Nicholas (29 November 2001). "Joining the Gang". The London Review of Books . 23: 23–29. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  35. Lydall, Ross (22 October 2012). "Brian Sewell: Soviet double agent Anthony Blunt did no harm to Britain". London Evening Standard . Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  36. "The Cambridge Four"., (RAF Museum). Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  37. Lubenow, William C. (2015). 'Only Connect': Learned Societies in Nineteenth-century Britain. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. p. 265.
  38. "Spy's secret memoir 'held in library'". BBC News. 20 October 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  39. "Access to the Manuscript Memoir of Anthony Blunt". The British Library. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  40. 1 2 3 "Blunt's Soviet spying 'a mistake'". BBC News. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  41. Thompson, Barbara; Morck, Virginia (Autumn 2004). "The Courtauld Institute of Art 1932–45". The Courtald Institute of Art Newsletter.
  42. Penrose, Barrie; Freeman, Simon (1986). Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt. London: Grafton. ISBN   9780246122001.
  43. Cooke, Rachel (13 November 2005). "We pee on things and call it art". The Guardian . Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  44. British Museum's Director Follows A Fascination To Germany, Erlanger, Steven, New York Times, 16 October 2015
  45. Mullan, John (11 February 2006). "Artifice and intelligence". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  46. Gunn, Rufus (1997). A Friendship of Convenience. Swaffham, Norfolk: Gay Men's Press. ISBN   9780854492442.


Court offices
Preceded by
Kenneth Clark
Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures
1945 to 1973
Succeeded by
Oliver Millar
Academic offices
Preceded by
T. S. R. Boase
Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art
1947 to 1974
Succeeded by
Peter Lasko
Preceded by
Kenneth Clark
Slade Professor of Fine Art,
Oxford University

Succeeded by
T. S. R. Boase
Preceded by
John Pope-Hennessy
Slade Professor of Fine Art,
Cambridge University

Succeeded by
John Summerson