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Art loan schemes and the usual suspects | Letters

Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge. Harland Walshaw recalls that students could once borrow works from Jim Ede’s collection there. Photograph: Jamie Fobert Architects

Vivien Lovell’s letter (22 January) recalling the art loan schemes of the late 70s inspired by the Leicestershire schools art collection, which included artists still familiar today, reminded me of my own experience as a beneficiary of the pioneering scheme. Leicestershire’s purchase of my 1982 painting The Individual in Relation to the Masses enabled me to finally trade in my inherited twin-tub for a brand new washer-dryer.

While this lasted me a good many years, it eventually had to go, but I’m glad to say the painting still remains in the Leicestershire collection. While I welcome the new Hepworth Wakefield “prints for schools” scheme mentioned in your editorial (15 January), it is a pity that the artists commissioned are drawn from a list of usual suspects, already with a considerable history of art establishment patronage, and with little known record of printmaking.
John Keane

• It is heartening to see acknowledgment made to the example of the Leicestershire schools’ art collection in the 1950s. It was an example I turned to when launching the County Durham schools museum service in 1960, circulating hundreds of prints and original artworks to schools, colleges, and community centres throughout the county. It is regrettable that such services are now in decline since their 1970s heyday.
Lionel Burman
West Kirby, Wirral

• It was good to be reminded of the Tower Hamlets picture loan scheme – not that we needed it as we live with the painting by Arturo Di Stefano that we borrowed several times in the early 80s and then bought. It continues to give great pleasure. It was a marvellous scheme.
Tim Russ
Truro, Cornwall

• When I went up to Cambridge in the 1960s, I discovered that if you sought out Kettle’s Yard, a group of cottages knocked into one private house, and pulled on the bell rope, the door would be answered by its owner, Jim Ede, who would give you a tour of the collection of early 20th-century English art hanging on the walls. He would tell you about the artists he had befriended as a young curator at the Tate, and whose work he had bought when they were penniless. I particularly remember Ben Nicholson, Christopher Wood, the sculptures of Gaudier-Brzeska, and the pictures by the old Cornish fisherman Alfred Wallis, who would send his “naive” paintings done in ship’s paint on cardboard boxes up to Ede, charging a shilling each.

At the end of the tour, you were taken to the store, stacked with many more works, and invited to choose one to hang in your room. I had Nicholsons and Woods, but mostly Alfred Wallises. Jim Ede would write your name and college on the back of an envelope, and ask you to return the painting at the end of term.

He eventually gave the collection to the university, who opened it to the public. It has been closed for the past two years for redevelopment, but reopens on 10 February. I don’t think you can still borrow pictures.
Harland Walshaw
Lympstone, Devon

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This article titled "Art loan schemes and the usual suspects" was written by Letters, for The Guardian on Wednesday 24 January 2018 06.22pm

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