Kettle’s Yard

Cambridge, England

Kettle's Yard: the homely residence of an avid art collector that ended up as an art museum for Cambridge University.

Kettle's Yard
- Graham Knott

Discover Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge

Kettle’s Yard is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in Cambridge, especially after its reopening in February 2018 with enhanced facilities. Originally the home of Jim Ede and his wife Helen Ede, this charming house and its gallery is now the University of Cambridge’s modern and contemporary art gallery.

Jim Ede was a dedicated collector of art and his passion and legacy continues to be reflected in the exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard.

Jim Ede: A Life in Art

Harold Stanley, affectionately known as Jim Ede, was born on April 7, 1895, near Cardiff. Educated at the Leys School in Cambridge and trained as a painter at Newlyn Art School, his artistic journey took shape after serving in the First World War and attending the Slade School of Art in London.

Leaving the Slade after a year, Ede immersed himself in the contemporary art scene while working at the National Gallery in London, and later as an assistant and then curator, at the Tate Gallery.

From here Ede formed crucial friendships with artists such as Ben and Winifred Nicholson, David Jones, Constantin Brâncuși, William Congdon, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miró, and Henry Moore, who filled Ede with inspiration for Kettle's Yard.

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- KotomiCreations

Creating Kettle’s Yard

“…a living place where works of art could be enjoyed… where young people could be at home unhampered by the greater austerity of the museum or public art gallery.”

Jim and Helen Ede’s vision for Kettle’s Yard.

Kettle's Yard is not your typical art gallery. Jim and Helen, envisioned a space where art could be experienced in a domestic setting rejecting the ideas of a large and impersonal space.

In 1956, under the guidance of architect Winton Aldridge, they converted four cottages into an unconventional home and showcase for Ede's collection of early 20th-century art. Their personal touch is evident in the carefully selected pieces, creating an atmosphere that feels more like a friend's home than a traditional gallery.

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- KotomiCreations

In 1966, the couple donated the house and its contents to the University of Cambridge, but continued to reside there until their move to Edinburgh in 1973. This ensured a continued informal atmosphere when wandering around Kettle’s Yard.

The property underwent an extension in 1970, incorporating a modernist exhibition gallery designed by Leslie Martin. However, a more significant transformation occurred in June 2015, with a £11 million building project introducing a four-floor education wing, enhanced exhibition galleries, a new entrance, and a café.

Funded in part by £2.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £3.7 million from Arts Council England, the additions by Jamie Fobert Architects include a new courtyard and support facilities. However, the result has earned Fobert criticism for potential loss of the building’s original character.

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- KotomiCreations

The Art Collection at Kettle's Yard

One of Kettle's Yard's most important features, and the reason for its creation, was to show off Ede’s diverse collection of art to the world. When it first opened as an 'open house,' visitors, especially students, were welcomed to Kettle’s Yard for personal tours of the collection.

Kettle's Yard
- KotomiCreations

Among the collection's notable highlights are Alfred Wallis's "Five Ships – Mount’s Bay" from 1928, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska's "Bird Swallowing a Fish" dating back to 1914, and Winifred Nicholson's 1923 "Cyclamen and Primula."

The gallery also proudly houses Christopher Wood's introspective "Self-Portrait'' from 1927 and Ben Nicholson's intriguing "1962 (Argos)," showcasing the diversity of art within Kettle’s Yard.

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- KotomiCreations

The collection is a testament to Ede's keen eye for talent and his dedication to preserving the legacy of the British avant-garde. Visitors to Kettle's Yard will find themselves tracing a path through the history of modern and contemporary art.

Exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard

In order to showcase Jim Ede’s beautiful art collection Cambridge University organises set and rotating exhibitions at Kettle’s Yard. Recent exhibitions are as follows:

  • Lucie Rie: The Adventure of Pottery
  • Material Power: Palestinian Embroidery
  • Making New Worlds: Li Yuan-chia and Friends
  • Open Now: Paint Like the Swallow Sings Calypso
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- KotomiCreations

Education and Outreach

Beyond its role as a gallery, Kettle's Yard is committed to fostering a love for art within the community. Educational programs, workshops, and outreach initiatives aim to engage visitors of all ages, from going paint crazy at the Early Years Studio to Chamber Music concerts and lectures from artists for older visitors.

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