24 September 2012

The Radev Collection reaches Bath

The Radev Collection is described as being “The private picture collections of: Eardley Knollys (1902 - 1991), Eddy Sackville-West (1901 – 1965) and Mattei Radev (1927 - 2009). Bequeathed in friendship, begun in 1938, and preserved in the 21st Century.” Some of the history of the Collection, and of the “male salon” which formed it, can be found on its website. Each of the three men added to the Collection of 800 works which mirror their differing interests: Knollys in French artists acquired through his gallery which in turn Sackville-West patronised for Modernist pieces. Knollys inherited from Sackville-West in 1965 and later left their combined collections to Radev.

A selection of works from the Radev Collection is currently on a UK tour which began in 2011 and will end in 2013. Curiously, on the first two stops, in Chichester and Lincoln, its title was The Radev Collection – Bloomsbury and Beyond, but at Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery it has become The Radev Collection: from Pissarro to Picasso (at the time of writing, on their website as “Pisarro – Piccasso”). The current title has the virtue of accuracy, Radev’s connection with the Bloomsbury Group being a little tenuous despite the Pallant House Gallery’s description of him as “a feature of artistic and literary Bloomsbury society”. For example, one of the leading Bloomsberries, Vanessa Bell, three of whose works are in the Collection, was born in 1879 and was in her seventies when Radev arrived in the UK from Bulgaria. Eddy, on the other hand, was Vita Sackville-West’s nephew and in the 1920s mixed with the Bloomsbury set at Charleston and elsewhere, though perhaps not on such intimate terms as his aunt.

Visitors to the exhibition will see unfamiliar works of an agreeably domestic scale by British and international artists including Keith Vaughan, Duncan Grant, Ivon Hitchens, Maurice Denis, Jean Metzinger, Jean Millet, Amedeo Modigliani (on the website, “Modigliano”). and Lucien Pissarro. Artists shown who have featured in previous posts here include Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ben Nicholson (Carbis Bay 1942, left), Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood.

There is also an opportunity to see works by Winifred Nicholson, Henry Lamb and Matthew Smith (Cornish flowers c1920, right), British artists who are perhaps less well-known than they were. As well as the Vanessa Bell, Bloomsbury fans can enjoy several works by Duncan Grant (Brighton pier and boats 1938, below)

Two notable pieces are the bronze by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Bronze Dancer 1913 (left) and Blaue strasse c 1916, (below) by Alexei Jawlensky, the Russian Expressionist who painted in Germany with Der Blau Reiter.

The Radev Collection: from Pissarro to Picasso continues in Bath until 18 November. It re-appears in Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall in February 2013 retitled again, this time as A Framer's Collection. Radev’s abilities in this regard are clear from the exhibits like the Smith above. Next summer the tour will return to London at the Redfern Gallery and end the year at the Abbott Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. Anyone interested in British 20th century art should try to see it. The exhibition catalogue provides more details of the Collection's founders and history as well as  responses from the curators of its tour, but is a little expensive at £5-70. However admission in Bath is free.

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