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  (Dowrish) Evelyn Louis Joll (1925–2001), by Lucy Anne Dickens, 2000 (Dowrish) Evelyn Louis Joll (1925–2001), by Lucy Anne Dickens, 2000
Joll, (Dowrish) Evelyn Louis (1925–2001), fine art dealer and art historian, was born at 29 Devonshire Street, London, on 6 February 1925, the only child of Cecil Augustus Joll (1886–1945) and his first wife, Laura Meriel, née Winsloe (d. 1931). His father was a distinguished surgeon, becoming senior surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital and the London Cancer Hospital. The family had its origins in Cornwall, hence his first name, but Joll was always called Evelyn, after his maternal uncle. They lived at 64 Harley Street, London, until 1949. Because of his mother's early death, his mother's sister Molly Winsloe and his godmother, Gertrude Dearnley, a colleague of his father, were the principal female influences on his childhood. He was baptized, married, and died an Anglican.

Joll was educated at Queen's College, Harley Street, Arnold House, St John's Wood, the Dragon School, Oxford, and from 1938 at Eton College. He was taught history there by Geoffrey Agnew, a part-time member of staff during the war. Called up in August 1943, he served in the 60th rifles and was commissioned second lieutenant in 1944. The regiment was posted to Greece in January 1945 to support the provisional government. In 1946 he was offered a place at Magdalen College, Oxford, to read history, which enabled him to secure early release. His tutors there included A. J. P. Taylor and Raymond Carr. After graduating with a second-class degree in summer 1949, he married Pamela Sybil Kingzett (b. 1925), a writer, daughter of Norman Kingzett, company director, on 10 September the same year. They had first met before he joined the army in 1943. At their wedding he met Geoffrey Agnew again. Pamela Joll was the niece of Colin Agnew, a director with Geoffrey of the art dealers Thos. Agnew & Sons. The firm was just emerging from the depression and the war, and the directors were looking for likely young men to join the business. At Geoffrey's invitation Joll joined in December 1949. He spent the next forty-five years working at Agnews, becoming a director in 1955 and succeeding Geoffrey as chairman in 1982; he remained chairman until 1992. From 1954 the Jolls lived at 7 Pelham Place, South Kensington, London. In 1994 they moved to a flat at 42 Tregunter Road, South Kensington. They had a son and three daughters.

Agnews was an old established firm in Old Bond Street, specializing in old masters of the European schools, British paintings, drawings, and watercolours of all periods, and prints and engravings. Their principal business was buying and selling the best pictures they could find. A good eye for quality, a good visual memory, and a quick sense of value were key requirements for success. With encouragement from the older generation Joll quickly became adept at this task. His work at Agnews contributed to his scholarship in several ways. It enriched his knowledge of art, surrounded by so many pictures daily. He was put in charge of the annual watercolour exhibitions which brought him into close contact with Turner's works. Over forty years the preparation and cataloguing of these exhibitions and the periodic shows of British paintings were a sound apprenticeship for his later works. There were important Turner exhibitions at Agnews in 1951, 1967, and 1979. Travel abroad to visit museums and clients enabled Joll to see many of Turner's paintings outside England and meet other scholars and curators. Finally, the records and archives at Agnews proved a key source for researching Turner's works.

The central achievement of Joll's life was his co-authorship with Martin Butlin of The Paintings of J. M. W. Turner (1977), a complete catalogue raisonné of Turner's oil paintings and oil sketches. His aim was ‘to establish as precisely as possible exactly what Turner did and did not paint’. Butlin, assistant keeper of the Tate Gallery, was responsible for the pictures in the Turner bequest (then in the Tate and National galleries and the British Museum), while Joll was responsible for the pictures Turner sold in his lifetime, which by then were spread around the world. There were 318 pictures in the former category and 210 in the latter, while 25 works known from documents were not identified. Work began in 1962 and the writing was finished in 1974. The next three years were spent seeing the text and the plates through the press. The catalogue was enthusiastically received by the critics and sold well. In 1978 it was awarded the first Mitchell prize for art history, which soon became the most prestigious book prize in this field. Coinciding with the impact of the Turner bicentenary exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1974–5, it completely transformed Turner's reputation, particularly abroad, and became an essential tool for all subsequent Turner scholarship. As a result, Butlin and Joll were much in demand to contribute to Turner exhibitions abroad. The most important were in Paris at the Grand Palais in 1983–4 and in Tokyo and Kyoto in 1986.

Joll finally retired as a director of Agnews in 1994, but was kept busy with diverse projects. He became vice-chairman of the Turner Society in 1993–4, and again in 2000–01; he was chairman from 1994 to 2000; 1996 was occupied by organizing a Turner exhibition in Australia, at Canberra and Melbourne. This was the first major Turner show in the southern hemisphere. Joll edited the catalogue, negotiated the loans from around the world, and supervised the delivery and return of the exhibits, a vast task. He collaborated with Butlin and Luke Herrmann in editing The Oxford Companion to J. M. W. Turner (2001), which included 760 alphabetical entries covering all aspects of Turner's life and work, contributed by fifty-four scholars from far and wide. Finally Joll worked on a catalogue of the watercolours and drawings in the Cecil Higgins Museum in Bedford (a catalogue finished just before he died but not published until after his death).

Joll was of average height, fair complexion, and sturdy build, and was throughout his life active and energetic. He was keenly intelligent and widely read, and had the capacity for close concentration. He had a subtle sense of humour and made good jokes, and was a devoted husband and father. The focus of his happy family life was the Jolls' house on the Isle of Wight, near Freshwater, where they spent holidays and weekends. Joll spent his last weeks enjoying the exhibition of Turner's watercolours at the Royal Academy in February–March 2001, having made a major contribution to the catalogue. He died of a massive pulmonary embolism on 27 March 2001, at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London. He was cremated following a funeral service at Holy Trinity Church on Clapham Common. The ashes were scattered at sea off the Yar estuary, Isle of Wight, on 3 April 2001. He was survived by his wife and their four children.

William G. Plomer

Sources  

Daily Telegraph (31 March 2001) · The Independent (2 April 2001) · The Times (5 April 2001) · The Guardian (11 April 2001) · Turner Society News, 88 (Aug 2001), 1–5 · G. Agnew, Agnew's, 1817–1967 (1967) · J. Agnew, ed., A dealer's record: Agnew's, 1967–81 (1981) · E. Joll, ed., Agnew's, 1982–1992 (1992) · personal knowledge (2005) · private information (2005) [Pamela Joll; William Joll; Richard Kingzett; Martin Butlin] · b. cert. · m. cert. · d. cert.

Archives  

Agnews company archives, London


Likenesses  

Lord Snowdon, photograph, 1963 (Gallery directors, Thomas Agnew & Sons), NPG · photograph, c.1989, Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd · L. A. Dickens, ‘c’ type colour print, 2000, NPG [see illus.] · L. A. Dickens, photograph, 2000?, repro. in The Independent · photograph, repro. in Daily Telegraph · photograph, repro. in The Times · photograph, repro. in The Guardian · photograph, repro. in Turner Society News · photograph, repro. in E. Joll, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery: watercolours and drawings (2002), 8

Wealth at death  

£1,026,196: probate, 26 July 2001, CGPLA Eng. & Wales