The Hertfordshire County Art Collection
Inspiration for the County's school children from original works of art
By Catherine Davis
Unless you have been a pupil or teacher in one of the county’s schools, you may not be aware of this artistic gem. The collection was begun in the late 1940’s by Sir John Newson, the then Chief Education Officer. It complemented Hertfordshire’s radical post-war schools building programme and sat alongside the art works being commissioned for the new schools. These commissions included pieces like Henry Moore’s ‘Family’ at Barclay School, Stevenage and Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Turning Forms’ at Marlborough School, St Albans. Newson wanted all pupils in Hertfordshire schools, to have the opportunity to see, use and be inspired by original works of art. Early purchases for the collection included work by artists who are now recognised as very important in post-war British art and craft such as Keith Vaughan, Anne Redpath, Michael Ayrton, Edward Bawden, Josef Herman, Walter Keeler and Michael Brennand. The collection also has work by notable Hertfordshire artists such as John Akers and the sculptor John Mills. As well as these famous names the collection holds many fine pieces by newer and less well known artists and makers.
The collection has been continuously added to over the years and now comprises about 1500 items. These include paintings, original prints, textiles, ceramics, photographs, glass, small sculptures and craft items such as baskets. In keeping with its original ethos only contemporary work is bought and in the last few years the scope of the collection has been widened to include art from across the world.
The collection is provided free for schools to borrow from and has been enjoyed by many thousands of children and young people over the decades since its foundation. It would be really interesting to hear from people who remember seeing the works of art in their schools and what they liked or didn’t like about them. Maybe the collection inspired you to make art or affected you in other ways; if so then please add your comments below so others can enjoy your memories.