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I am extremely sad to share the news that Alistair Brown, our Art Detective Volunteer, died in February 2022, aged 60. Alistair had been diagnosed with myeloma in October 2021, but despite ongoing outpatient and inpatient treatment he continued volunteering until December.

Al threw himself into researching anything that came his way. He made a huge contribution to Art Detective, especially from February 2020, when he joined as an 'official' volunteer, helping to answer submissions and liaising with collections, but he had been contributing to discussions and submitting updates of his own since the start of the project in 2014. His knowledge, diligence and constant courtesy earned the gratitude and respect of his many correspondents at public collections.

Art UK's Director Andy Ellis described his death as a huge loss to Art UK. Edward Stone, Collections Data Manager, who worked with him in the early days of Art Detective, commented, 'Al was such a prolific contributor and tremendously generous with his time and knowledge'. Art Detective Group Leader Grant Waters reflected, 'Alistair was always a pleasure to deal with... he was very knowledgeable and diligent in everything he did. His passing will be a huge loss to the team.' Pieter van der Merwe, group leader for Maritime Subjects, remembers 'a pleasant correspondent in the common cause – and very assiduous and sharp in picking things up'.

Alistair studied History of Art at The Courtauld in the late 1980s. Later he worked at the BBC, the Commonwealth Institute, and as Operations Manager for the charity Urban Forum (now permanently closed), which supported local communities in having a greater say in decisions affecting them. One of his favourite places was Kew Gardens, where he was a member. An enthusiastic walker, he had made good progress circumnavigating London during the pandemic with his friend Mark.


Lamentation 19th C

Paolo de' Matteis (1662–1728) (after)

Laing Art Gallery

I have put together a Curation that offers a glimpse of Alistair's contribution. It includes examples of artwork records significantly improved by his research, such as that of the painting above. He excelled at identifying religious subjects and artists who worked in this area, but as these helpful updates for collections demonstrate, he turned his mind to anything that was lacking an attribution or a specific title. Researching paintings was a lifelong passion and his output was prodigious. He is very much missed.

Marion Richards, Art Detective Manager