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Man Behind the Moderns: The Art Collection of Herbert Read

Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968) is widely recognised as the leading advocate and promoter of modern art in twentieth-century Britain.

Yet to be explored is the connection between Read’s position as friend and champion of some of the most important artists of the last century and the collection of approximately two hundred works of art that he acquired over his lifetime. It was as multi-faceted as the man himself: spanning genres, techniques and artists from Barbara Hepworth to Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso to a chimpanzee. 

This online exhibition tracks Herbert Read’s life in artworks, revealing the fascinating stories behind his artistic connections and collecting interests. He owned an impressive, yet deeply personal, collection of gifts and tokens of appreciation for his unwavering support, displayed proudly at his homes in both London and Yorkshire. 

The University of Leeds holds a significant portion of Read’s collection, thanks to a generous bequest by his son Benedict in 2017. Some of these artworks are shown here for the first time, alongside material from the Herbert Read Archive, his personal library and other archives around the world. The aim is to create a deeper understanding of Read’s extensive cultural network and his enduring influence on the world of modern art.

View the exhibition online here.