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Tuesday Treasure: The Man Behind the Moderns

Discover the cultural connections of remarkable Yorkshireman Herbert Read through his art collection, personal library and archival material

Drop in to this Tuesday Treasure and get up close with the art collection and archive of Herbert Read. Learn more about the man at the very centre of twentieth-century Modernity and how his legacy continues to be studied today. A ‘Reassessing Herbert Read’ event.

Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968) was a decorated First World War veteran, poet, art critic, publisher, novelist, Knight and professed anarchist. From humble beginnings as the son of a farmer, Read went on to profoundly influence modern art and literature in twentieth-century Britain. The list of his close friends and collaborators includes T.S. Eliot, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Peggy Guggenheim and Stephen Spender.

Read’s diverse career is reflected in the breadth of his holdings at the University of Leeds, which contains correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts, photographs, his library and a significant portion of his impressive art collection. Project work undertaken in recent years has ensured that Read's Archive and Library are fully accessible for research and explored the collection of approximately two hundred works of art that he acquired over his lifetime.

This Tuesday Treasure will display highlights from the life of this extraordinary man. Rarely-seen artworks from Herbert Read’s collection will sit alongside personal correspondence and photographs revealing his artistic connections and collecting interests. Read championed and maintained close friendships with some of the most important artists of the last century and boasted a collection that not only included Hepworth, Moore and Nicholson but also Pablo Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Jean Cocteau and a chimpanzee! 

Further highlights will illuminate Read’s personal life and background, as well as his significant literary achievements. 

Image: Herbert Read in his study at Stonegrave House with Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction II, c. 1960s. Leeds University Library Special Collections BC MS 20c Herbert Read/13/16