Construction to build the gallery began in 1939 after a £100,000 donation from philanthropist Sir Alfred Herbert, interrupted by WW2, the museum eventually opened in 1960. 3 years after his death.
The gallery has a superb collection of sculptures, old masters paintings, 20th & 21st century art, local history and natural history.
Betty Rae 1904 – 1965Stretching Girl, 1964 (fibreglass)
The great niece of Dr Thomas Barnardo (founder of Barnardo’s children charity), she was born in London and attended the Royal Collage of Art in 1924 and became friends with student teacher Henry Moore.
Passionate about left wing politics & anti-fascism, she was secretary of the Artists International Association, opposing imperialism, fascism and colonialism through art.
Her sculpture, Stretching Girl encompasses the ambition, emotion & innocence of youth.
John Collier 1850 – 1934Lady Godiva 1858
The Honourable John Collier OBE was one of the most outstanding painters of his generation. He married two of Biologists Thomas Huxleys daughters and had an intimate relationship with his son Leonard Huxley.
His broad range of portraits include George V, Edward VIII, Charles Darwin, his father in law Professor Huxley and Sir Lovelace Stamer.
He was outspoken on his opinion of religion, particularly Roman Catholicism;
“I am looking forward to a time when ethics will have taken the place of religion. My religion is really negative. The benefits of religion can be attained by other means which are less conducive to strife and which put less strain on upon the reasoning faculties. My standard is frankly utilitarian. As far as morality is intuitive, I think it may be reduced to an inherent impulse of kindliness towards our fellow citizens. People may claim without much exaggeration that the belief in God is universal. They omit to add that superstition, often of the most degraded kind, is just as universal. An omnipotent Deity who sentences even the vilest of his creatures to eternal torture is infinitely more cruel than the cruellest man. To me, as to most Englishmen, the triumph of Catholicism would mean an unspeakable disaster to the cause of civilisation. They have a superstitious belief in the actual words of the bible which is very dangerous”.
Ben Nicholson 1894 – 19821946 – 47 (Two Forms)
The son of artists Sir William Nicholson and Mabel Pryde, his brother, wives & daughter are also notable artists. He trained at London’s Slade School of Fine Art where he formed a close relationship with surrealist painter Paul Nash.
A pioneer of abstract art, he first came across Cubism in Paris in the early 1920’s. He applied constructivist principles to his art, with mathematical precision, clean lines and an absence of a clear subject.
Cecily Brown 1969Be Nice To The Big Blue Sea 2013
This title comes from the David Bowie song, Love You Till Tuesday, the painting’s inspired by Edgar Degas 1860, Young Spartans Exercising.
The British artist is influenced by variety of painters, including Francisco de Goya, Frances Bacon, Joan Mitchell, Rubens & Poussin. Her work presents a female perspective & has an erotic undercurrent throughout.
The immense oil on linen painting is 109 × 171 inches and sweeps you off your feet. The gallery helpfully has a seat opposite the intriguing piece to enable you to absorb the incredible brush work.
Hugh Byars 1957
Woman with Two Children 1993
The Glaswegian artist, inspired by ordinary people, observes people of the city and the power of humanity. The impasto painting reaches out to draw you in with thick layers of oil on the canvas. Inspired by religious iconography from 13th Century, there’s warmth in the maternal image.
Carl Plackman 1943 – 2004Three Levels of Engagement 2003
The innovative artist was an influential teacher at the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College to the likes of Damien Hirst, Alison Wilding and Liam Gillick.
Renowned for his arrangement of everyday objects presented in highly skilled drawings or constructed in gallery spaces, his exhibitions have run regularly throughout Europe since 1969.
“I am constantly reminded while making drawings of their ‘objectness’ and the obsession with materialism that I see around me. So they are often evocative of situations where objects have priority of value and position in the world and people are made to fit in as best they can. In many cases the absence of the human presence is itself significant. Where animals occur and the way in which they are depicted, suggests a metaphor for some aspect of the human predicament”.
John Piper 1903 – 1992Interior of Coventry Cathedral, November 15th 1940
He studied at the Royal College of Art, turning early from abstraction to a more naturalist style. As one of the artists officially commissioned by the government to document Britain at War, he drove to Coventry the morning after the air raid of the 14th November 1940.
Still ablaze he captured the fiery destruction of the 14th century gothic cathedral.
In 2015 The Herbert Gallery & Museum reported financial difficulties. The space has an incredible collection of Art and an interactive events calendar, I urge you to support the gallery & see for yourself.