Jim Ede

Inspired by Jamie Fobert’s talk at the Royal Institution about his work on Kettle’s Yard, I have been reading Jim Ede’s A way of life, his very detailed account of his life and, in particular, his philosophy of eclectic acquisition, how and when he bought – or was given – the objects in his collection, and how and where he displayed them in the cottages in Cambridge which he converted into a single house in 1957.   Not least, I have been interested in the question raised in the Comments of the blog as to whether or not he would have been a better Director of the Tate, had he been available for appointment in 1938 instead of John Rothenstein.   As Alan Bowness writes in the Introduction, ‘He might well have become director of the Tate Gallery in 1938 (and what a difference that would have made !)’.   But admirable, charming and exceptionally visually sensitive as he so obviously was, deeply interested in the mystical communion with works of art and gifted in his associations with contemporary artists in both London and Paris during the 1920s, he doesn’t really come across as someone who would have wanted to be Director.   He writes his own self-assessment:  ‘At that time, 1928-1938, I thought I knew myself.   I had a profound feeling for the essence of life of which I felt mysef to be a part.   ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’, so how could I despair ?  I knew what sort of fool I was and what sort of fool I wasn’t.   I knew I had little brain and much heart’.   

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3 thoughts on “Jim Ede

  1. But what a heart! And what an Eye! And what a wife !

    He/they changed my life completely by having me, and any other undergraduate who was interested, to tea in Kettle’s Yard every week and talking about the collection (1963/66).

    Perhaps you’re right that he didn’t have the temperament, or probably the desire, to be Director of the Tate, but his acquisitions would have transformed it, and Tate Modern. His love of, and friendship with, Matisse, alone, would have brought many great Matisses, and at minimal cost.

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