Fortum, C[harles] Drury [Edward] (christened "Charles Edward Fortnum," "Drury" added 1840s)
Date born: 1820
Place born: Holloway, London, United Kingdom
Date died: 1899
Place died: Great Stanmore, Middlesex, United Kingdom
Collector and art historian, author of collection catalogs of the South Kensington Museum (later Victoria and Albert); considered "second founder" of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Fortnum was the son of Charles Fortnum (1770–1860), a businessman, and Laetitia Stephens (1782–1853), his father's second wife. The younger Fortum was educated privately due to concerns of poor health. He joined his father's business briefly in London but hated commerce. In 1840 he emigrated to Australia where he adopted the middle name "Drury." In Australian he shared a land grant in the new colony of South Australia with his half brother, Charles Stuart. His interests in the natural sciences led him to send back zoological specimens to the British Museum, some of which were given the species name "fortnumi." Fortnum returned to England in 1845. He married his second cousin, Fanny Matilda Keats (1808–1890) in 1848. Keat's wealth, her share of inheritance from the Fortnum & Mason business, allowed Fortnum to live as a collector and scholar of art. He and Fanny immediately began buying art during trips to Italy, including sculpture, bronzes, majolica, and jewelry. They were assisted by the curators of the British Museum Augustus Wollaston Franks (q.v.), and John Charles Robinson (q.v.) of the South Kensington Museum (now Victoria and Albert Museum). In 1867 Robinson was dismissed from the Museum, Fortnum was made advisor on acquisitions ("Art Referee"), securing objects in England and Europe. In 1868 he became interested in rejuvenating the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. He initially contacted John Henry Parker (q.v.), keeper of the Ashmolean beginning in 1870. Fortnum wrote the catalogues for the South Kensington Museum which Robinson had originally been assigned. Fortnum's first catalog was Descriptive Catalogue of the Maiolica, Hispano-Moresco, Persian, Damascus, and Rhodian Wares in the South Kensington Museum in 1873. Another, Descriptive Catalogue of the Bronzes of European Origin in the South Kensington Museum appeared in 1876. In 1884, Arthur Evans (q.v.), the newly appointed keeper of the Ashmolean, renewed Fortum's interest in the Ashmolean. Initially Fortum loaned portions of his collection, which later became a gift in 1888. The following year, Fortnum was appointed a ‘visitor’ of the Museum and named a trustee of the British Museum. After his wife's death in 1890, he married Mary Fortnum (1822–1899), another second cousin, in 1891, endowing £10,000 to the Ashmolean with the stipulation that a new building be created for it adjoining the University Galleries. The Museum was moved in 1894 and its collections combined with the Randolph Gallery. Another South Kensington catalog, Maiolica, was published in 1896 and his own collection catalog of the same subject the following year. He also contributed articles to the journal Archaeologia. He died at the Hill House, Great Stanmore, Middlesex, which he and his first wife had bought in 1852. Fortnum left his remaining collections to Oxford, and porcelain to the British Museum. He is buried at Highgate cemetery.
His writings show a the careful observation, meticulous data accumulation, and classificatory skill of a scientist; they remain landmarks in the study of their subjects.
Home Country: United Kingdom
Sources: Penny, Nicholas B. "The Fortnum Collection." in Catalogue of European sculpture in the Ashmolean Museum, 1540 to the present day, volume 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992, pp. xvii–xxx; Warren, Jeremy P. Renaissance Master Bronzes from the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford: the Ashmolean Museum, 1999; Wilson, Timothy. "Fortnum, Charles Drury." Dictionary of National Biography
Bibliography: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Maiolica, Hispano-Moresco,
Persian, Damascus, and Rhodian Wares, in the South Kensington Museum: with
Historical Notices, Marks, & Monograms. London: Chapman & Hall, 1873;
Maicolica: a Historical Treatise on the Earthenwares of Italy, with Marks and
Monograms. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1896; A Descriptive Catalogue of the
Bronzes of European Origin in the South Kensington Museum. London: Eyre and
Spottiswoode/Chapman and Hall, 1876.