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H. S. Ede

(1895—1990) museum curator and art collector


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British collector, curator, lecturer, and writer, born in Penarth, Glamorgan, the son of a solicitor; the ‘H. S.’ stands for Harold Stanley, but from about 1920 he adopted the name ‘Jim’. After leaving school he began training as a painter at Newlyn and then Edinburgh College of Art, but the First World War interrupted his studies. From 1919 to 1921 he studied at the Slade School, then became the photographer's assistant at the National Gallery. In 1922 he moved to the Tate Gallery, where he worked until 1936, during which time he established contacts with leading modernist artists including Brancusi, Miró, and Picasso. The British artists with whom he was friendly included Ben and Winifred Nicholson (whom he met in 1923 and who played an important part in stimulating his interest in contemporary art), Barbara Hepworth, David Jones, Henry Moore, and Christopher Wood, all of whose work he collected. In 1926 he discovered the work of Gaudier-Brzeska when his estate was offered to—and declined by—the Tate. Ede acquired much of it and from that point championed the artist's work, by making gifts to museums in Britain and France, arranging for bronze casts to be made, and by writing A Life of Gaudier-Brezska (1930), which was reprinted in 1931 with the title Savage Messiah. He also became a major supporter and collector of Alfred Wallis. He was regarded as a leading contender to be next director of the Tate, but he resigned in 1936, being unable to work any longer with the director at the time, J. B. Manson, who did not share Ede's enthusiasm for modernist art and signally failed to exploit his knowledge and contacts.

After leaving the Tate, Ede moved to Tangier and supported himself partly with lecture tours in America. In 1952 he moved to France, then in 1956 returned to England. The following year he bought four derelict 17th-century cottages in Cambridge and converted them into a single house that he called Kettle's Yard. In this house he presented his art collection in a setting ‘which harmonized the modernist spirit of the 1930s with the experience of living in north Africa’ (DNB). The house was open to the public every afternoon, and in 1966 Ede presented it and its contents to the University of Cambridge. An extension and exhibition gallery, designed by Sir Leslie Martin (see Circle), were added in 1970, but Kettle's Yard still retains the character of a private home, although it is now as noted for its temporary exhibitions as its permanent collection. Ede moved to Edinburgh in 1973 and lived there for the rest of his life, but he kept close links with Kettle's Yard and published a book on it in 1984: A Way of Life: Kettle's Yard.

From A Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Art.


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