Giles Waterfield

I have been mourning the death of Giles Waterfield, who died wholly unexpectedly of a massive heart attack on Saturday, although aged only 67.   I admired him for what he achieved as the Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery, where he went after a brief period working under John Morley as an Education Officer at Brighton Art Gallery.   He wrote about the history of Dulwich and transformed it from a forgotten oddity into a flourishing independent museum with an active Board of Trustees and a small endowment.   He brought John Sainsbury in as chairman of Trustees and then satirised him in The Hound in the Left Hand Corner.   But his best novel was probably his first, The Long Afternoon, based on the lives of his parents.   I’m glad that he had at least published his magnificently authoritative history of municipal art museums, which derived from the exhibition, Art Treasures of England, which he curated in 1998 at the Royal Academy.   He was very dry and very knowledgeable, on every committee in the country, including chairman of Charleston Trust.


9 thoughts on “Giles Waterfield

  1. Maurice Davies says:

    Giles’s tragic early death is a sad loss. As well as studying the history of England’s regional museums, he was also partly responsible for persuading government to fund them, for the first time, ever. Alongside Art Treasures of England he helped organise a symposium about the difficulties of regional museums. In the face of anticipated public criticism at that event, Culture Secretary Chris Smith announced the formation of the task force that later recommended the Renaissance in the Regions funding that has been so important. We owe him an enormous amount.

  2. Absolutely right : he was an outstanding person. That he never became Director of major National Museum is a huge sadness, and loss to us all. For him to be a good writer as well is very unusual. The whole world of Museums and Galleries should be in mourning today.

  3. helenreesleahy says:

    Such sad news. A further instance of his characteristic generosity: Giles donated his research archive for The People’s Galleries to the University of Manchester (he also wanted to liberate his bookshelves from the many lever arch files) and now it’s a resource for all our postgrads studying the history of museums in Britain. We’re very happy to have it, and now it’s a working memorial to Giles.

  4. Giles gave very generously of his time, his expertise and his contacts in adjudicating the Authors’ Club’s Art Book Prize, and entertained the judges and administrators at his home. We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear of his sudden death, and would very much like to send a letter of condolence to his next of kin. Could you be so kind as to email me ( so that we can do this?
    With sympathy and warm wishes,
    Chris Schuler,
    for the Authors’ Club

  5. - says:

    Following a family funeral in Dorset, a memorial service will be held on
    11 JANUARY 2017 at 3:00pm
    in St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square

    Donations, in lieu of flowers, are requested to the Giles Waterfield Attingham Memorial Scholarship Fund.

  6. - says:

    May one diplomatically enquire of the future and appropriateness of venue of Mr Giles Waterfield’s forthcoming exhibition “The Artist’s Studio” scheduled for 2019 (London)?

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