Arthur Edward Anderson (1870-1938)

Gardner, Daniel, 1750-1805; Agnes Pennington
Figure 1. Gardener, Daniel: Agnes Pennington (1820) Glasgow Museums Resource Centre © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.
Figure 2. Stott, Edward A.R.A. : The Sacred Pool  (1820) Glasgow Museums Resource Centre © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

Arthur Edward Anderson donated the two paintings shown to Kelvingrove in 1931 (1) Arthur Edward Anderson was born in Wandsworth in 1870. (2) He was the son of Edward John Anderson and Eleanor Anderson. Arthur Edward Anderson died in Chessington Surrey on November 9th 1938. (3) There is no evidence of any marriage. Edward John Anderson was born in Meerut, East India, with census returns  in 1871 showing him as a British Subject, his occupation listed as ‘gentleman’. His father owned a soap factory in Meerut. Edward John Anderson returned to England to live and established himself as a wharfinger. (4)

The family undoubtedly had money. Most of the scant census information available for Arthur E. Anderson, who was the first born son of the family, lists him as a gentleman, although in the 1901 and 1911 census he is listed as a clerk in the East India Merchant Company. (4) His life’s work however, seems to have been philanthropy, fuelled by his passion for art.

His wealth is also highlighted in a brief biography on the website of the British Museum which states that his art purchases were funded by his ‘inherited wealth’, although the same biography states that Anderson was ruined by the ‘great crash’ – presumably the stock market crash of 1929. It is worth noting that although he was ‘ruined’, he still managed to donate two paintings to Kelvingrove in 1931 and donated paintings to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge until 1935 (5)

A.E. Anderson was a philanthropist who definitely gave for public benefit. He wanted others to enjoy art as he did. According to Sir Sydney Cockerell who wrote Anderson’s obituary for the Times, Anderson was a man of exceptional taste who bought art works because they were beautiful. Cockerell acknowledges that he took advice from gallery directors about what he should buy. (6) Having bought these works, Anderson then donated them to Galleries and Museums around Britain.

These galleries included the Fitzwilliam Museum In Cambridge (of which Sir Sydney Cockerell was the director) and the Whitworth Institute in Manchester. Between 1924 and 1935 Anderson donated twenty six items to the Fitzwilliam Museum, including watercolours, drawings and sculpture. Between 1916 and 1927 Anderson donated 17 drawings to the British Museum. These included drawings by Brandoin, Daumier, Raemaekers and Clara Klinghoffer, among others. (7)

 After his death, obituary notices were featured not only in the Times, but also in local papers in places such as Gloucester, Hull, Derby, Belfast and in Angus in Scotland, perhaps an indication of the scope of Mr Anderson’s generosity (8)

Although frequently invited to do so, Anderson seldom visited any of the museums and galleries to which he donated art works. Even when the Whitworth Institute held an exhibition of works donated by him he could not be persuaded to attend the opening. He has been quoted as saying ” I do it because I enjoy it and I don’t like being thanked.” 

Apparently he did once visit Cambridge because he had at one time been destined to attend Clare College. He is also known to have attended a gathering of distinguished guests invited by the government of the day to celebrate the centenary of the foundation of the National Gallery in 1924. Largely however, Anderson was not a man who sought recognition. In some cases, paintings would arrive at galleries having come directly from the dealer where Anderson bought them with no information other than the name of the donor. 

Cockerell stated of Anderson that he got as much pleasure out of finding homes for his art works as did the collector who hung his treasures on his own walls. Cockerell also hoped that “the example of this unique public benefactor will inspire others with similar enthusiasm”

Anderson himself wrote, ” I often wonder what made me take up such an unusual hobby – I simply cannot resist buying a beautiful work of art when I see it and, as there is no room in my tiny cottage, there is nothing like presenting them to the great public museums, where they will have a safe refuge for many years to come. I should hate a sale for distribution far and wide after they have been collected together with such loving care.” (9)

Arthur Edward Anderson’s story is a small but significant one. He has no great galleries named after him and most of the works he donated rest in the stores of the Museums to which he was so generous. However, his motives for giving are clear and his desire to share his love of art with others stands in tribute to his memory. Donors such as Arthur Edward Anderson form an important part of much of our cultural life. Without them our galleries and museums would be lesser places.


(1) Glasgow Corporation Minutes 1931

(2) :1881 census accessed 07/04/2021

(3) The Times, November 11th 1938

(4) 1901 census, 1911 census accessed 07/04/2021 

(5) Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge : http://www.fitz

(6) The Times, November 26th 1938: p.17, par2

(7) http://www.british research/ collection online accessed 12/04/21

(8) www-British newspaper  accessed 19/04/2021

(9) The Times, November 26, 1938: p.17 par 3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.