Humfry Payne - Director 1929-1936

Humfry Payne (1902-1936) was an English archaeologist and historian who specialised in Greek pottery, particularly Corinthian. He was Director of the British School at Athens from 1929 until his accidental death in office in 1936 when he was 34. Payne was married to the British writer and film critic Dilys Powell who wrote about their adventures in Greece in The Villa Ariadne, An Affair of the Heart and The Traveller’s Journey is Done.

Payne was a generational scholar whose father Edward Payne was an historian and whose mother, Emma Leonora Helena Pertz was the niece of German historian Georg Heinrich Pertz. Humfry Payne’s sisters were the astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and the architectural writer and artist Leonora Florence Mary Payne (Ison).Humfry Payne was the first Macmillian Student at the BSA (instituted by George Macmillan, publisher and a founder of the School and Chairman) and he became Director shortly after atthe age of 27. Payne spent time working at Knossos in Crete with Arthur Evans before he became Director of the BSA.

As Director he initiated and directed the Perachora dig which continued for a number of seasons in the Gulf of Corinth, and which unearthed significant finds. Humfry Payne died of blood poisoning and is buried at Mycenae, in the cemetery of Agios Georgios, where his gravestone reads, Mourn not for Adonais, a quotation from Shelley’s poem for Keats, Adonais.

Artist’s Note: With Payne, I chose to stay faithful to the photo provided to me by the BSA archive as this photo seemed to capture his quiet seriousness perfectly. Accordingly, the LEGO portrait was relatively straightforward to design, except for his face. I had to experiment with several LEGO heads because some were too serious and made him look angry, while others were too smiley, which made him look immature. I hope I have achieved the right balance with this portrait.