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The new project is to be funded by a £2.2m donation from Hyman Kreitman, a London businessman, and his wife, Irene, who have made donations to the Tate before.

The research centre, which will be open from next Spring, will be located on the ground floor of the Tate on the Millbank and near a new entrance that will be unveiled when the redeveloped gallery opens in October.

Stanley Spencer, members of the Bloomsbury Group and artists Paul Nash and Ben Nicholson are among those who will feature. The archives also contain numerous papers and minutes of artist societies and there are three particularly important collections of artists’ photographs, by John Piper, Eileen Agar and Paul Nash.

The library will also contain more than 120,000 catalogues of art exhibitions and special collections as well as documents relating to British art since 1900 and the Tate’s own Public Records.

As well as the letters, photos and manuscripts, the archive also includes diaries, sketch books, drawings, maquettes and audio-visual material.