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Anthony Blunt

(1907—1983) art historian and spy


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(1907–1983)

British art historian who, in 1979, was publicly revealed to have been a Soviet agent.

Born in Bournemouth and educated at Marlborough College, Blunt attended Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming a fellow in 1932. During his years at Cambridge he became a communist, serving Guy Burgess as a ‘talent spotter’ for potential agents among the undergraduate population. Throughout World War II Blunt worked in MI5 for British Intelligence, at the same time passing high-level information to the Soviet Union. In 1951 he assisted in the escape of Burgess and Maclean, while himself remaining undetected and enjoying his status as a respected art historian – Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures and director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. In 1953 he published an authoritative study of Art and Architecture in France 1500–1700 and in 1956 was knighted for his services to the arts.

The defection of Kim Philby in 1964 at last alerted the secret services to Blunt's longstanding treachery. Confronted, Blunt confessed and cooperated with the authorities in return for immunity, enabling him to continue in his official capacities until his retirement. In 1967 he published a definitive study of the art of Poussin. Blunt's public exposure did not come until 1979, with the publication of Andrew Boyle's The Climate of Treason. Blunt, the charming and erudite art historian, was then disgraced and belatedly stripped of his knighthood.

Subjects: Art — Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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