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Recognising Herbert Read: the figure in the carpet

Discover more about Herbert Read and his many cultural connections through his manuscripts, photographs and correspondence.

This free online short talk, for Heritage Open Days 2020, illuminates the life of a remarkable Yorkshireman through his archive.

Herbert Read’s grave in North Yorkshire bears the legend ‘Knight Poet Anarchist’. Read was a decorated First World War veteran, an art historian who contributed a weekly column to the popular BBC magazine the Listener, and an internationally respected critic.  

Passionate in his promotion of the avant-garde, Henry Moore praised Read as ‘the champion of the whole of the contemporary art of England.’  

Today, he may not be as well-known as his friends and contemporaries, such as the poet T.S. Eliot, and the artists Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore but during his lifetime he was a household name.  

The diverse nature of Read’s projects and talents may be one reason he is less well-remembered than his peers. ‘[I]n dissipating my talents’, he wrote, ‘I have made it difficult for my contemporaries to recognize the underlying unity of my purpose and my practice. I am left with the hope that someday someone will take the trouble to trace “the figure in the carpet”.’  

From humble beginnings as the son of a farmer, Read profoundly affected the British art scene from the 1930s to the 1960s. Join us to learn more about this pioneering man and how his legacy is still being understood today. 

This event is hosted online and the event link will be emailed to registered attendees one day before the start time. 


Image credit: Herbert Read in his study with a sculpture by Naum Gabo. Leeds University Library Special Collections BC Read 

Gallery website image size 800px x 400px
Gallery website image size 800px x 400px