Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

Judy Egerton (1928 - 2012):
Art historian and museum curator

Judy Egerton was a leading scholar of 18th-century British art, particular the works of George Stubbs, famous for his watercolours of horses. She documented Stubbs' work in what was described as a magisterial catalogue, and mounted a notable exhibition while at the Tate Gallery, London.

Judy Attiwill was born in Melbourne, Australia, and at Lauriston Girls' School and the University of Melbourne where she graduated with first class honours in History in 1948. In January 1949 she married Ansell Egerton and the couple emigrated to the United Kingdom where her husband after a short spell in Oxford was appointed lecturer in Economics at Queen's University, Belfast; Judy was appointed tutorial assistant in History.

The Egertons remained in Belfast until 1956, where they enjoyed the intellectual, especially artistic, milieux in that city. Judy Egerton became close friends with Philip Larkin, the poet who was then (1950-1955) sub-librarian at Queen's University (it was while he lived in Belfast that Larkin published his small collection, XX Poems). Their friendship lasted long after their respective periods in Belfast, producing a corpus of some 250 letters; Egerton had a lifelong talent for forging friendships out of what were, essentially, professional acquaintanceships.

In 1956 the couple moved back to London. While her husband had a post at The Times newspaper, Egerton contributed various articles to historical journals as well as entries to the Dictionary of National Biography and the Australian Dictionary of Biography. She also came into contact with the great authority on watercolours, Dudley Snelgrove, who asked her to work with him in his Dover Street office, where he was assisting the American philanthropist Paul Mellon, a grandson of Thomas Mellon, the judge and founder of the United States banking house, who was originally from County Tyrone and whose parental home is today preserved as the original basis for the Ulster-American Folk Park at Castlehill, near Omagh in that county. Paul Mellon, heir to the enormous Mellon fortune, was acquiring a large number of artworks, with a special interest in British sporting art, of which he assembled a considerable collection, and it was largely through her work in cataloguing this collection that Judy Egerton first became interested in George Stubbs.

In 1974 she joined the Tate Gallery as assistant keeper in the historic (British) department, and in 1976 was one of the curators of the exhibition George Stubbs, Anatomist and Animal Painter. She also curated the Tate Stubbs exhibition in 1984-5 at the Tate Gallery and the Yale Centre for British Art, Connecticut, which was highly acclaimed. Other exhibitions she curated included Joseph Wright of Derby in 1990, and she contributed to the catalogue of the Tate's permanent collection, The Age of Hogarth. She retired from the Tate in 1988, having reached the compulsory retirement age.

However, she was as industrious as ever and in 1997 was awarded Senior Research Fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art where she completed her acclaimed Stubbs catalogue, which was published in 2007 as George Stubbs, Painter. She also revised the British pictures catalogue of the National Gallery, a task which had been regarded as being as unenviable as it was enormous, but her resulting revised catalogue was widely esteemed - an enormous challenge that yielded a volume that was lauded by her peers.

Born: 7 August 1928
Died: 21 March 2012
Richard Froggatt

Wesley McCann


Obituaries: The Times 6.4.2012, The Daily Telegraph 13.4.2012; The Age (Melbourne) 28.4.2012; "An Anglophilic Yankee Aristocrat and His Finds Across the Pond", The New York Times 20.4.2007