Carritt, David Graham
Hugh David Graham Carritt
London, England, UK
Art historian and dealer, responsible for many sensational painting discoveries in the post-World-War II period. Carritt was educated at Rugby School 1939-44 before attending Christ Church College, Oxford. While still at school he drew the attention of Benedict Nicholson (q.v.), then editor of the Burlington Magazine, as someone which extraordinary art-historical perceptiveness. Nicholson took Carritt to visit the great Italian art authority, Bernard Berenson (q.v.) in Florence, who also was impressed with the Carritt's gifts. (Of this encounter, Carritt related that he "corrected" some of Berenson's attributions). In 1952, Carritt, then only 25, made perhaps the most important discovery in his career. In the remote home of a retired surgeon captain of the British Navy, Carritt discovered a painting by Caravaggio, The Musicians, now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Carritt worked freelance for a few years before becoming a director at Christies auction house in 1964. During his years at Christies, Carritt obtained many important pictures for the firm to sell. He left Christie's in 1970 to found his own firm, David Carritt, Ltd, and become director of the international consortium of art dealers, Artemis. In 1977, Carritt identified a painting at Mentmore Towers auction house, incorrectly attributed to Carl van Loo, as actually by Fragonard. Though the sale was heavily attended and publicized, Carritt bought the masterpiece for a nominal £38000 (ca. $14000). The painting, today known as Toilet of Psyche, is now owned by the National Gallery, London, valued for more than 70 times what Carritt paid for it. Among his other discoveries were a Roger van der Weyden at a cottage in Bray and a set of large Guardi canvases rolled at a country house in Ireland. As the head of David Carritt, Ltd., Carritt sponsored many scholarly exhibitions and issued important catalogs. He died of cancer at age 55.Carritt represented the 19th-century-style art historian, whose position was based primarily upon opinions, connoisseurship, hubris and an extensive amount of travel and personal experience. Notoriously outspoken, he devoted more of his energies to the life of a raconteur than a scholar. Of his extensive knowledge, very little was left in published form.
Fifteen Etchings by Rembrandt. London: D. Carritt, 1993; The Classical Ideal: Athens to Picasso. London: D. Carritt, 1979.
Russell, John. "David Carritt, English Art Critic, Historian and Dealer, Dies at 55." New York Times August 5, 1982; p. B14; "Mr David Carritt." The Times [London]. August 4, 1982; p. 12.