Bloomsbury and Beyond : The Radev Collection in Cumbria

Abbot Hall Gallery

The Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal

Today I went on a Yorkshire Branch of The Art Fund trip over to Cumbria. Our main intention was to view The Radev Collection at Kendal’s Abbot Hall Art Gallery. We travelled to Kendal by coach from Leeds picking up in Ilkley and Gargrave on the way. The first stop was for lunch at the Strickland Arms just by the gates to Sizergh Castle. We arrived way ahead of schedule so some members went to view the exterior of the Castle (it doesn’t open until 1pm) but I remembered the nearby Low Sizergh Farm Shop and took my companion for a brisk walk and some retail therapy in the well-stocked deli.

At Low Sizergh Farm Shop

Welcome to The Farm Shop

After the soup and sandwich lunch we headed off for nearby Abbot Hall where the curator was ready and waiting to tell us about the Radev Collection and point out some of the highlights.

Inside Strickland Arms

Inside The Strickland Arms

The Radev Collection

The collection takes it name from Mattei Radev, a native of Bulagria who arrived in Britain in the 1950s as a stowaway on a cargo ship after fleeing from communism.

Radev went on to build a new life in England, becoming a leading picture framer for the London Galleries and mixing in the influential Bloomsbury circle which included writers, philosophers and artists, such as Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster.

He inherited most of the works from his friend the artist-dealer Eardley Knollys, who had in turn inherited them from music critic Eddy Sackville-West, following his death in 1965.

The impressive collection includes works by an array of notable artists including Duncan Grant, Alfred Wallis, Ivon Hitchens, Ben Nicholson, Keith Vaughan, Graham Sutherland, Pablo Picasso, Lucien Pissarro and Vanessa Bell.” [Source]

Photography was not allowed in the exhibition but the complete collection can be seen on the Radev Collection website of which 60 were selected for this touring exhibition. I had to be content with a photo from the gallery window.

River Kent from Abbot Hall

The Abbot Hall has an interesting permanent collection which includes a room of works by Kendal-born George Romney including the huge Gower Family in rooms furnished with a collection by local furniture-makers Gillows.

Gower Family

Romney’s The Gower Family

There’s also The Great Picture a magnificent tryptich of Lady Anne Clifford which used to hang in Appleby Castle. Read all about it here.


The Great Picture

Our entry ticket to the Gallery also allowed us to visit The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry where I’d remembered seeing years ago the display of Arthur Ransome memorabilia, books and prints and his desk. It’s still there.

Ransome's desk

We didn’t have time to inspect all the displays and it was soon time to return to the coach for journey back to Leeds.

Museum of Lakeland life

The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry


17 comments on “Bloomsbury and Beyond : The Radev Collection in Cumbria

  1. Nilly says:

    We’ve just returned from arty Sussex, determined to seek out some exhibitions “up North” (surely there must be some!) and here is one that is right up our street. I’ll also have another look at the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, which I love. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Fran says:

    Certainly an ‘arty” day. The Arthur Ransome exhibits look interesting. I think there has been a new bio out about him this year.

  3. dianabirchall says:

    Hi Barbara, thanks for another reminder of all the off-the-beaten-track exhibits, galleries and houses there are in England, that the visitor doesn’t usually discover. This one sounds like a perfect treasure – countryside, Bloomsbury art, Romneys and a literary exhibit. Can it get any better than that? Certainly not in Southern California, which is why I enjoy reading your blog! (Which I’ve just caught up on and am up-to-date at last, after my New York trip.)

  4. agnesashe says:

    So glad you’ve given a mention to George Romney – one of the most underrated artists of the eighteenth century. It looks like a very interesting place to visit, too. It is great to remind everybody that there is a cultural life away from London!

    • Welcome Agnes and thank you for ‘liking’ previous posts and commenting here. I remember seeing Romney’s former home in Hampstead and discovering that he was born in Lancashire/Cumbria. I think his wife and family remained in Kendal whilst the artist worked tirelessly in London sending money home to them.
      I hope to go back again as we really didn’t have a lot of time to inspect the rest of the gallery and museum as I would have hoped. Cultural life up here is rather limited but does mean one has a chance of seeing as much as possible whereas I am often overwhelmed by what is available in London and remembering crowds at past exhibitions often opt for something, even there, a bit more ‘off the beaten track’.

  5. Julie says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your day out in my neck of the woods! I’m Kendalian born and bred and have never moved away, so I suppose I do know bits and pieces about ‘the auld grey town’ Romney did indeed leave his wife and family here whilst he pursued his career in London. He married Mary Abbott in the Parish Church which is a hop,skip and a jump to the right from Abbott Hall Gallery and if you’d had time his house is another very short walk to the left along the side of the river complete with civic society plaque! You might now be tempted to come back for another visit!!

    • Thank you for this interesting comment, Julie. Well, I find it a very attractive ‘auld grey town’ and do hope to revisit just to look around as my fancy takes me. In the past I’ve come over for a particular reason – one of which, a couple of years ago, included a visit to the church, so decided not to do it again this time.Will definitely look out for Romney’s House though.

  6. Haven’t been to this particular location, but visited Kendal a few years back and thought it was lovely – we saw an exhibition on the Quaker Tapestry, which was beautiful, and very inspiring, and walked around the ruins of a castle owned by Catherine Parr’s family – I believe she is supposed yo have spent time there as a child.

  7. ms6282 says:

    You’ve beat me to this one! We’re hoping to go up to see the exhibition this Saturday – need to get full value out of our Friends’ membership and a trip to Kendal is always quite pleasant.

    • I’m sure you will find it interesting, Mick, and I look forward to reading your ‘take’ on it. I mean to visit Kendal again as I don’t know the town itself at all. Have a good day out.

      • ms6282 says:

        Finally got up to Kendal to have a look at the exhibition today. Enjoyed it very much. Some interesting works by artists I knew and others that were new to me. And it’s always pleasnt strolling along the river and round the town centre. Blog post to follow in the near future

      • Glad you enjoyed your day out and look forward to reading more of your thoughts shortly. Barbara.

  8. […] had never heard of the London Group but it seemed to fit in well with recent exhibitions visited in Kendal and in […]

Leave a Reply to “Uproar!” The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963 « miladysboudoir Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.