Sir Nicholas Proctor Goodison (1934 – 2021)

13 Jul 2021

It is with immense sadness that I report the death of Sir Nicholas Goodison, who was Chairman of the Management Board of the Courtauld Institute of Art from 1982-2002, in that role leading The Courtauld through two major transitions in its history – its move from Portman Square to Somerset House in 1989-90, and its achievement of independent collegiate status within the University of London in 2002. He was also Trustee of the Samuel Courtauld Trust from its formation in 1989 until 2002. He remained a supporter and close friend of The Courtauld until his death.

Following education at Marlborough College and King’s College Cambridge, Nicholas Goodison had a highly successful career in business and banking, holding many influential roles including Chairman of TSB and Chairman of the London Stock Exchange (1976- 1986).

A genuine Renaissance man, it is impossible to cover the full range of his interests and engagements. Nicholas was an extremely well informed collector and had deep, scholarly interests in the visual and decorative arts and music. Some of his great passions  included 18th century British furniture, 20th century British painting,  clocks and automata. He was also a champion of contemporary British craft – furniture, ceramics, glass and jewellery of non-precious materials  But his interest in artists and musicians was always informed by yet more thoughtful intentions.  For a number of years he had been Honorary Keeper of Furniture at the Fitzwilliam, and was also keen to support its collection of contemporary craft. He built a corporate contemporary art collection for the TSB when its Chair. He built a corporate art collection for TSB, as its Chair.

His fascination with the work of artisan designers and academic interest in the history of the relationship between craft and industrial production led to his 2002 volume on the great 18th century Birmingham metalwork manufacturer Matthew Boulton which is the major reference on this subject. Described as magisterial, it is a comprehensive account of methods of design, manufacture, marketing and business methods as well as a detailed account of the range of objects produced, and their purchasers. But Nicholas Goodison was not a solitary scholar – his interests were matched by his willingness to take on the responsibility for organisations (he described himself as a ‘professional chair’ in one of the interviews that he gave to National Life Stories, a trust within the British Library). In 2004 he led a review of the effectiveness and efficiency of support to regional and national museums and galleries in acquiring works of art, resulting in his report for HM Treasury entitled ‘Securing the Best for our Museums. Private Giving and Government Support’. He was deeply involved with the Furniture History Society, and was its President. He was Chair of the National Art Collections Fund (now known as the Art Fund) from 1986-2002, Chair of the Crafts Council, and a member of the Board and then Chairman of the Burlington Magazine.

Peter Lasko, Director of The Courtauld from 1974-1985, brought Nicholas Goodison on to the Management Board of The Courtauld in 1982, with the intention, successfully achieved, that he should succeed John Witt, son of Robert Witt, one of The Courtauld’s founding triumvirate. Nicholas Goodison’s leadership of the Courtauld board was wholly positive. He oversaw the major project of the move to Somerset House, managed by director Michael Kauffman, and served as a significant intermediary between The Courtauld and the University of London while it was still an institute of the central university. Then (with director Eric Fernie, other members of the Management Board, including Lord Rothschild, and Nicholas Ferguson, the first chair of the self-governing college, and with the support of generous donors), he ensured that the Courtauld achieved its independence. The new Board of Trustees then persuaded Nicholas to remain a Trustee until 2021 (a further two terms of office), reflecting the value placed on his wise counsel. During that time, and afterwards, he supported The Courtauld in very many ways.  A regular attender at events, a member of the Samuel Courtauld Society, a donor who supported teaching in modern British painting (one of his areas of interest), he remained a thoughtful and wise friend of The Courtauld throughout his life.

Nicholas brought keen intelligence, great wisdom and acute judgement of character to all he was engaged in. He was an invaluable mentor and warm friend to many of us at The Courtauld. And he will be hugely missed.

His portrait in oil, by Tom Phillips, is in the Stock Exchange’s collection.  A preparatory sketch, made in oil on panel in 2006 was acquired from the artist by the Art Fund and given to The Courtauld. I have always been delighted to have this portrait in my office and will treasure it now more than ever.

Nicholas’s wife Judith, whom he married at the age of 26, has been hugely supportive of his many interests, while leading her own distinguished life. Our warmest thoughts and deepest sympathies go to her and to their family, at this very sad time.

Professor Deborah Swallow,

Märit Rausing Director

A Thanksgiving service to celebrate Nicholas’s life will be held at St Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ on Monday, September 27th at 11.15am.

Portrait of Sir Nicholas Goodison, © Tom Phillips.

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