In April 1964, the newly-established University of Essex received a donation of a number of artworks from HS Ede, including works by Alfred Wallis, Kit Wood, Ben Nicholson and Henri Guadier-Brzeska. Better known as Jim Ede, he had been a curator at the Tate who had been collecting British-based artists for some time and creating a collection that was very much his own – and was to become Kettles’ Yard. He described it as a “living place” where art could be enjoyed in a domestic setting unhampered by the austerity of the gallery or museum. As new universities were built in the 1960s, full of post-war vision and idealism, Ede declared that there “should be a Kettle’s Yard in every university”.
Consisting of four cottages converted into a single home, Kettle’s Yard is a very different space from that of the University of Essex with its distinct 1960s concrete brutalist architecture. Despite the obvious differences between Kettle’s Yard and the University of Essex in terms of architecture and space, they share an underlying desire of making art part of our everyday surroundings rather than simply on display. For Ede, it was the social setting of the home, for the University it is the quiet hustle and bustle of the library.
These pictures in the University of Essex Collection would have been part of Kettle’s Yard, but Jim Ede hoped that by giving out a few works, we would be inspired to make our own. Ultimately, taking a wider perspective upon the University’s history, we can suggest that Ede’s donation played a formative role of inculcating a passion for art that would further blossom in the emergence the University’s Collection of Latin American Art (ESCALA) currently with over 700 works, and Art Exchange, our gallery that brings new art and artists onto campus through an ever changing programme of exhibitions, thereby making art and culture part of the campus experience.
If you would like to find out more about the University of Essex’s Collection of Latin American Art, click here.