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The Large Collectors

This ballpoint pen portrait on collaged texts from Art In England (1938) emulates the composition of Paul Cezanne’s ‘The Large Bathers’, part of Pallant House Gallery’s permanent collection from The Charles Kearley Bequest. Cezanne’s artwork is among the most high profile pieces in Kearley’s collection, it distinguishes him as a serious collector, I was immediately drawn to this work at the start of my artist residency with UAL Decolonising Arts Institute with Pallant House Gallery.

The figures depicted within this self portrait are caricatures influenced by three art collectors, who have donated works to Pallant House, that I believe are representative of the archetypal 20th century British art collector. The figure furthest in the background facing away from the viewer is myself as I am, not in the clothes or the hairstyles of the three collectors - contrasting the caricatures of myself representative of Walter Hussey, Charles Kearley & Colin St John Wilson, encapsulating the array of characteristics and motivations of 20th century British collectors. They have a variety of motivations for collecting and their collections leave a legacy that we as viewers of the donated works can benefit from. However, they are all white middle aged men. This artwork looks to investigate and disrupt the milliere of the archetypal 20th century collector from Britain.

Pallant House Gallery’s grand architecture is the background of this artwork, as it is the home of the three collectors' vast and important collections of work, the ideal motif for the most comprehensive amalgamation of modern British art that the gallery represents.

I am fascinated by what drives British art collectors, specifically modern collectors from the past 100 years and the nuances that inform collecting within this context. Charles Kearley and Colin St John Wilson can be seen as archetypes of two contrasting models of collectors. Kearley’s desire to furnish his modern penthouse apartment in the 1930s was the initial prompt for what would become a prolific collection. Conversely, Colin St John Wilson started collecting in the 1950s “as a form of compensation”, as he put it in A Note on the collection (dated 6 July 2006), for giving up what he calls his “first love” in reference to painting. Wilson was enamoured with painting and painters, he developed close friendships with most artists in his collection. Though both collectors would ultimately donate their vast collections of work to Pallant House for the public’s benefit - they started their respective art collecting careers for contrasting reasons, emblematic of the motivations for many collectors. Church of England priest Walter Hussey was a significant collector and he was instrumental to the successful opening of Pallant House Gallery, as well as himself being an influential figure in Kearley’s art collecting.


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