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