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Duncan Robinson CBE MA FRSA

Duncan Robinson, CBE MA FRSA

Director Emeritus of the Fitzwilliam Museum

Fellow (formerly Master) of Magdalene College

Former Affiliated Lecturer in the History of Art


Duncan Robinson CBE, FSA, DL is the former Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.   

Mr Robinson is a graduate of both Cambridge and Yale Universities.  In 1970, he became Assistant Keeper of Paintings and Drawings at the Fitzwilliam Museum and in 1976 was appointed Keeper.  Throughout his early career in Cambridge he taught for the History of Art Department and, from 1975, was a Fellow and College Lecturer of Clare College.  He served as a member of the Visual Arts Panel of the Eastern Arts Association, 1973-81 (Chair, 1979-81).  He was a member of the Art Advisory Panel of the Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978-81 (Vice-Chair, 1981), and was appointed, in 1981, to the Council.

From 1981 to 1995, Mr Robinson served as the Director of the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.  He was concurrently C.E.O. of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, and Adjunct Professor of the History of Art at Yale University.  A Fellow of Berkeley College, he served as the Acting Master for the spring semester, 1986.  He was a Governor of the Yale University Press, 1987-95, and has been a Trustee of Yale University Press, London since 1990.  He served on the Board of Managers of the Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, 1982-95, and on the Board of Directors of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1991-94.  He was a member of the Visiting Committee of the Department of Paintings Conservation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984-94, and a member of the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Advisory Panel of the Federal Council for the Arts and the Humanities, 1991-94 (Chair, 1992-94).  In 1990, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, in 1991 he was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2006 he became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

On returning to Cambridge as Director of the Fitzwilliam in 1995, Mr Robinson was re-elected to Clare as a Professorial Fellow (Emeritus from 2002).  He was a member of the Faculty Board of Architecture and History of Art, and also former chair of both the Appointments Committee and the Senior Promotions Committee. He contributed actively to the teaching of both undergraduates and graduate students. As a Deputy Vice-Chancellor he chaired a number of other University committees, including Appointments for the Faculties of Architecture and History of Art, History and Education and the Advisory Panel on Human Remains.

Outside Cambridge, Mr Robinson served on the Committee of the University Museums Group, 1995-2000, and was its Secretary (1997-2000).  He was a member of the Museums and Archives Panel of English Heritage (1996-2002), of the Advisory Council of the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (1997-2002 and 2004-9), and of the Arts and Humanities Research Board (1998-2003).  He was a Governor of the South Eastern Museums Service (1997-9) and in 2002 became a Founding Director of the Museums Service, East of England (subsequently the East England Museums Libraries and Archives Council).  He was a Trustee of The Burlington Magazine Foundation, the Cambridge and County Folk Museum (Chair), the Chantrey Bequest, the Henry Moore Foundation (Chair), The Prince’s Drawing School (Chair), the Royal Collection and Yale University Press (London). He was also chair of the Public Art Advisory Panel for the City of Cambridge.  In 1998, he became President of the Friends of the Stanley Spencer Gallery in Cookham, and served as a Vice-President of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies, 2000 - 2006.

In addition to articles and reviews, Mr Robinson is the author of A Companion Volume to the Kelmscott Chaucer (1975), re-issued as Morris, Burne-Jones and the Kelmscott Chaucer (1982), and Stanley Spencer (1979, revised 1990 and reprinted 1993). Morris and Company in Cambridge (with Stephen Wildman) and Town, Country, Shore and Sea: British Watercolours from Anthony van Dyck to Paul Nash resulted from exhibitions he organised at the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1980 and 1982 respectively.  His more recent publications include Man and Measure: the Paintings of Tom Wood, 1996, The Yale Center for British Art: A Twentieth Anniversary Tribute, 1997, and The Fitzwilliam Museum: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Collecting, 1998.

In addition to University teaching, Mr Robinson has lectured widely throughout Britain and the United States.  In 1991, he was the George Heard Hamilton Visiting Lecturer at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and in 1994 he was one of six Yale professors who were invited by the Association of Yale Alumni each to contribute six lectures on videotape to the Yale Great Teachers Series. In 2007 he gave the Isaiah Berlin Lecture at the British Academy and in 2009 the Paul Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery, London, and the Yale Center for British Art.  

In 1967, Mr Robinson married Elizabeth Anne Sutton of Fairfield, Connecticut.  They have two daughters and a son.

Research Interests

Duncan Robinson's research interests include Italian painting of the 14th century, British art from the 17th century onwards, and French art of the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of his publications have resulted from his museum career at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, including Morris, Burne-Jones and the Kelmscott Chaucer, 1975, Cent Dessins Français du Fitzwilliam Museum, 1976, Town, Country, Shore & Sea: English Watercolours from van Dyck to Paul Nash, 1982, and The Yale Center for British Art, a tribute to the genius of Louis I Kahn, 1997. His monograph on Stanley Spencer, 1979, was revised and reissued in 1990.