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The Gregory Fellowships

Propeller - Austin Wright

The Gregory Fellowships in the Creative Arts were established at the University of Leeds in 1949 under the patronage of Yorkshire businessman Eric Craven Gregory (1888-1959), chair of art publishing company, Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. and a director of The Burlington Magazine.

Eric Craven Gregory. Image © University of Leeds

Gregory was deeply attached to modernism in art and literature and was corresponded with many of its leading figures. Running between 1950 and 1980, the scheme he financed enabled artists to be attached to the University and regarded as members of the staff. Fellowships in Painting, Sculpture and Poetry were established, loosely connected with the Departments of Fine Art and English Literature; a Fellowship in Music was also established to run on a less frequent basis. While working independently, the fellows made themselves and their work accessible to the whole University community. This landmark scheme was the first time that artists had worked with a university in this way anywhere in Britain.

The Fellowships encouraged significant artistic and literary activity at the University, as well as more widely in the city of Leeds and local region (especially Wakefield). The ethos of Gregory's scheme was to 'bring ... younger artists into close touch with the youth of the country so that they may influence it', and to encourage artists engagement with the community. In his mind, the relay of ideas of the creative elite, represented by the fellows, would pass from artist to student, and from student to the wider community. The students would be the agents through whom the modern movement in the arts would permeate society.

Gregory signature. Image © University of Leeds

The University of Leeds Special Collections and Galleries hold important collections relating to the institution's Gregory Fellows, from paintings and sculptures to manuscripts and papers. Their work and the related papers held here have inspired numerous exhibitions over the years including exhibitions at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery devoted to Kenneth Armitage (1916-2002) and Austin Wright (1922-2003), as well as forthcoming displays planned at the Henry Moore Institute and at Leeds Art Gallery.

Catalogue for the Gregory Memorial Exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery (1960). Image © University of Leeds