Sir Alan Noel Barlow

(1881—1968) civil servant

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(b. London, 25 Dec. 1881; d. Wendover, Bucks, 28 Feb. 1968). English civil servant and collector of Islamic and Chinese art. The eldest son of Sir Thomas Barlow, royal physician and president of the Royal College of Physicians, he was educated at Marlborough and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1906 he was appointed to a clerkship in the House of Commons, by 1933 he was principal private secretary to the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, and from 1934 to 1948 he served at the Treasury. He began collecting Oriental ceramics in 1900 and started acquiring Islamic pottery five years later, amassing within 20 years a comprehensive collection with a special emphasis on Ottoman and Iranian items. He built up his collection of Chinese art in the early 1920s, when several British collectors led by george Eumorfopoulos acquired objects excavated in China. Barlow preferred early austere Chinese pottery with little polychrome decoration. During the 1920s and 1930s he also continued to acquire Islamic items, and some of his pieces were shown in 1931 at the Exhibition of Persian Art (London, RA). From 1948 to 1955 he was a trustee of the National Gallery, London, serving as chairman from 1949 to 1951; he also became president of the Oriental Ceramic Society in London. His other interests included antiquarian books and modern printing, and he was president (1945–62) of the Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society. He gave his Chinese collection to Sussex University and in 1956 gave almost all of his early Islamic pottery (c. 150 items) to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (with a further six pieces going to the British Museum and seven to the Victoria and Albert Museum). Later he gave eight pieces of Turkish pottery to the Athenaeum Club and 16 pieces to the Savile Club, London. His widow presented five Islamic pieces to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and six to the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, University of London; the rest of his Islamic collection (over 100 items) remained with his family.

From The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.

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