University of Texas at Austin

Nancy Cunard:

An Inventory of Her Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Cunard, Nancy, 1896-1965
Title: Nancy Cunard Art Collection
Dates: 1920s-1980s (bulk 1930s-1950s)
Extent: 61 items
Abstract: A collection of drawings, prints, photographs, two scrapbooks, and a needlepoint of and related to the British author, heiress, and activist, Nancy Cunard.
Call Number: Art Collection (AR-00055)
Language: English
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. Please note that a minimum of 24 hours notice is required to pull art materials to the Ransom Center's Reading and Viewing Room. Some materials may be restricted from viewing. To make an appointment or to reserve art materials, please contact the Center's staff at
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases and Gifts, 1970-2000

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Nancy Clara Cunard was born in Leicestershire on March 10, 1896, to Sir Bache Cunard, heir of the Cunard steamship line, and young American heiress Maud Alice Burke. Although born into wealth and privilege, Cunard would eschew these comforts for the life of a renegade poet, publisher, and civil rights activist. She often suffered the scorn and ridicule of family, friends, and the general public for her political beliefs and artistic pursuits. With her sharp, arresting features and strong sense of visual style (which often included armfuls of African bracelets), Cunard was extensively photographed, most famously by Man Ray and Cecil Beaton. Cunard founded the Hours Press in 1927, first publishing Samuel Beckett and financing the monumental anthology of African and Black music, culture, art, and politics, Negro, in 1934. She was a freelance journalist during the Spanish Civil War, advocating for refugees, and traveled to the United States to investigate racial injustice and support the rights of African Americans. Cunard traveled as a poet and activist throughout most of her life, but did pause to write memoirs of Norman Douglas in 1954 and George Moore in 1956. Cunard died on March 16, 1965, in the Hôpital Cochin in Paris. For a more extensive biographical sketch, see the Nancy Cunard Collection (MS-01010) finding aid.


Marcus, Jane. “Cunard, Nancy Clara (1896–1965).” Jane Marcus Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by David Cannadine, September 2010. (accessed September 22, 2017).

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of drawings, prints, photographs, two scrapbooks, and a needlepoint of and related to Nancy Cunard. Artists in the collection include John Banting, Augustus John, and Wyndham Lewis. Subjects include portraits of Cunard, Norman Douglas, George Moore, and Abraham Lincoln, as well as landscape drawings, Banting's surreal figural and abstract drawings, and sketches of African scuplture, power figures, jewelry, and masks. A pencil sketch of Nancy Cunard’s home in the south of France, which dates to circa 1963, was given to the Ransom Center in 2000.

Related Material

Works and correspondence by and about Nancy Cunard can be found in the Nancy Cunard Collection (MS-01010), and photographs of, by, and related to her are present in the Nancy Cunard Literary File Photography Collection (PH-00281). Additionally there is a portrait of Cunard in the Augustus John Art Collection (AR-00131).

Separated Material

A reptile skin and brass frame, and a tooled leather folder reside in the Nancy Cunard Personal Effects Collection.

Index Terms


Banting, John, 1902-1972.
Core, Philip
Cunard, Nancy, 1896-1965.
John, Augustus, 1878-1961.
Lewis, Wyndham, 1882-1957.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
Plunkett, Grace Gifford, 1888-1955.


Art, African.
Authors--British--20th century.
Masks, African.

Document Types

Needlepoint (visual works).
Photographic prints.

Item List