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The Hull University Art Collection features 'Art in Britain from 1890 to 1940'. It isn’t limited to British art but contains work by foreign artists who worked in this country, such as Lucien Pissarro, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Théodore Roussel and Ernst Stern.

Hull University started the collection in 1963. The founder of the University, Thomas Robinson Ferens, had left some money to encourage fine arts and it was decided to ‘build up a collection of minor works, attractive in themselves and historically and stylistically related: a collection which would have its own distinctive character’.

Unfortunately the initial budget for buying paintings was just £200 a year, so the emphasis was on finding pictures that were fairly cheap and building a collection ‘by concentrating on the unfashionable and inexpensive’. In the 1960s, art from the period 1890–1940 met this description: it was affordable because few big galleries or collectors were interested in buying it.



photographs of coathangers


the collection

Some facts about Hull University Art Collection:

The Collection concentrates mainly on figurative art as well as elements of Surrealism, Primitivism and Abstraction.

The Collection focuses on British art from 1890 to 1940. In the 1960s, work from this period was not popular, so good paintings could be bought fairly cheaply.

Artists and their relatives have given paintings to the Collection. Mrs Pamela Diamond gave four works by her father Roger Fry, and Lady Kathleen Epstein donated several works by her husband, the sculptor Jacob Epstein.

The period represented by the Collection has now come back into favour and many of the works have been loaned out to major galleries for exhibitions. Unfortunately this new popularity means that it’s become much more expensive to buy additional works to extend the Collection. A painting by Sir Stanley Spencer (who is represented in the Collection) recently sold for £1,290,500.

As you’ve already seen, art collections can be built around many different themes. Hull University Art Collection traces a particular period of time: 1890 to 1940. This is a particularly interesting period in British history and one you will learn more about on the following pages.


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