Papers relating to the administration of Kitson's will and bequest. Kitson's daughters Elizabeth Kitson and Alice Barbara Kitson were the executors of his estate. The probate solicitor was J.B. Heaton of Rider, Heath, Meredith & Mills, Lincoln's Inn, London. The task of distributing the bulk of Sydney Kitson's collection on his death fell to Sir Henry Mendelssohn Hake CBE FSA FRHistS (1892-1951), Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Hake was born in London, and educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge. On 2 June 1914, he became an assistant in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum. A year after the outbreak of the First World War, on 22 August 1915, Hake was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Cambridgeshire Regiment, and was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant on 1 February 1916. On 9 February 1917, Hake was seconded for special duty on 29 August he was promoted to lieutenant. He finally returned to the Cambridgeshire Regiment on 29 July 1919. On 24 October 1919 he received permission to wear the Croix de Guerre awarded to him by France. He resigned his commission on 9 October 1920. Hake was the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 1927 until his death. He was knighted in 1947.
After Kitson's death, lengthy negotiations took place as Hake worked to identify and allocate over 1,000 works of art by Cotman and others, attempting to honour the wish of Kitson to make his native Leeds the main beneficiary. In the end the disposal of the Kitson collection was kept almost entirely within the five institutions named in his will, namely: Leeds Art Gallery, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
The Ashmolean Museum in Kitson's adopted city Oxford, received the watercolour 'Near Brandsby' and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge 'Dolgelly'. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) received 95 works of particular interest (These were sold in 1970 - Cotman had recorded the antiquities of Norfolk for Dawson Turner - an important fact not apparently realised when the RIBA sold the whole of Kitson's bequest of Cotman's finest architectural drawings to defray the costs of transferring the drawings collection temporarily to Portman Square. The Cotmans were considered 'merely topographical' although they actually marked the scholarly, rather than simply picturesque, attention to ancient buildings.), the Victoria and Albert Museum 19 watercolours and drawings, as well as works by artists associated with Cotman, and the Castle Museum, Norwich 61 works by Norwich School Artists. Leeds received some 80 works including drawings by Federico Barocci and Sebastian Bourdon; work by Cotman's contemporaries, including William Alexander, David Cox, Joshua Cristall, John Crome, James Holland, Paul Sandby Munn, Samuel Prout, John Varley and William Turner of Oxford; as well as two major Cotman watercolours, 'Barnard Castle from Towler Hill' and 'The Harvest Field'.
The remainder of Kitson's collection, consisting of over 800 sketches and prints, by and after Cotman, together with Kitson's library of books, catalogues, articles relating to the artist, and 12 volumes of 'Cotmania' was placed on deposit in Leeds Art Gallery for ten years. The deposit of this archive material was intended to provide scholars with a resource for Cotman studies and a the ideas of a scholarship tenable at Leeds University for research into artists in Yorkshire was mooted. The upheavals of the Second World War put the project into abeyance and in 1949 the question of what to do with the study collection was raised once again. The Victoria and Albert Museum tried, aggressively but unsuccessfully to wrest the material from Leeds. The British Museum and the Norwich Castle Museum took some of the pencil sketches which related to works in their collection, and after a decade of protracted negotiations Hake announced in a letter to Sir Leigh Ashton, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum: 'Leeds will enjoy what remains with them forever!' (11 November 1949).