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In this week's blog, Dr Jenny Powell, the Senior Curator at Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge, writes about some of the sculpture on display in Horizons: Kettle's Yard at Jerwood Gallery.

In 1922 the creator of Kettle’s Yard, Jim Ede, was appointed as a Curator at the Tate Gallery, London. He described that moment as 'phenomenal'!

Jim said, 'I gave up painting and became absorbed in the work of contemporary artists. I wrote a great deal about modern painting and sculpture, and came to know most of the leading artists of the day, and also the ones who were not yet known.' 

It was while at the Tate and living in Elm Row, Hampstead, that Jim formed important close friendships with musicians, actors, literary figures and artists including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Jim also made trips to Paris in the 1920s where he met key avant-garde artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. 
In 1956, Jim and his wife Helen moved to Cambridge and renovated four derelict cottages to create Kettle's Yard, which was opened to the public in 1957.  Jim installed his collection of art, furniture, glass, ceramics and other objects that he had gathered during his life.

By carefully choreographing the position of each work of art and object, and their relationship to one another, he aimed to create a perfectly balanced whole and to encourage visitors to enjoy the art works in a relaxed, domestic setting – his home.

The small stone Head by Yorkshire-born artist Henry Moore, that is displayed in the Horizons exhibition is a special object from the Kettle’s Yard Collection. 

Made in 1928, it is an early example of Moore’s interest in carving directly into stone. Many of Moore’s contemporaries had embraced stone carving from the 1920s onwards. Like other modern artists in the Kettle’s Yard collection such as Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Moore used the material qualities of the stone to direct the form for the sculpture.

In Head, he combines this modern making technique with a form that resembles ancient sculpture. This sculpture also occupies a significant position in the Kettle’s Yard house. In 1957, the year of the creation of Kettle’s Yard, Moore gave the object to Jim. In a mark of their close friendship and Ede’s admiration for the artist, Jim later placed the sculpture by his bedside on a small ledge. He recalled that he had always loved the sculpture and explained that ‘in this small head the equilibrium of sculpture is reached, its life contained within its own nature; it is hard to think of it being made – it just is’. 

Usually the arrangement of art works in the Kettle’s Yard house remains unchanged. Believing that the experience of the space and arrangement of objects was of equal important to the art works, Jim asked that the space remained as he had intended when he gifted the collection to the University of Cambridge in 1966.

In the exhibition at Jerwood Gallery we are delighted to be able to re-display this sculpture and other works from our collection in a new setting whilst the gallery is undergoing a capital redevelopment project to improve our spaces. This is a unique opportunity for us to make new connections – and at Jerwood Gallery, Moore’s Head is united with a beautiful drawing by the artist, Standing Nude.  

Sculpture is at the heart of Kettle’s Yard’s collection and Ede often surprised his visitors by displaying it in curious ways. Rather than sitting on top of regular gallery-style plinths for example, the sculptures can be found sitting on furniture, bookshelves or on top of found natural forms. 

Some of the bases to the sculptures at Kettle’s Yard were intended to allow visitors to move the objects and Jim made his own turning mechanisms from tins with ball bearings inside. 

Visitors to Horizons: Kettle's Yard at Jerwood Gallery can also see a polished metal Fish that was originally made by the Romanian-born artist Constantin Brancusi in 1928.

Having visited the artist’s Paris-based studio in Paris in the 1920s, in Ede made a replica of Brancusi’s Fish in 1969. He displayed it downstairs in the extension to the cottages that opened in 1970. There, the fish sits on top of a large barrel of wood – the natural material contrasts with the highly polished reflective metal of the sculpture and emphasises the dynamism of its form. 

I hope that visitors to the exhibition will enjoy discovering the sculptures and paintings again at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge when we re-open in Autumn 2017.

Horizons: Kettle's Yard at Jerwood Gallery runs until Sunday 3 January 2016.

Dr Jenny Powell
Senior Curator, Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge

Images (top to bottom): (1) Close up of Henry Moore's Head in the room depicted in image four, (2) Jim Ede at Kettle's Yard, (3) Close up of Henry Moore's Head, (4) Head on display at Kettle's Yard, (5) Constantin Brancusi sculpture on display at Kettle's Yard. All images courtesy Kettle's Yard, University of Cambridge.