Over the last fifty years Churchill College has developed an outstandingly eccentric collection of modern and contemporary art.
The collection was started with donations presented to the college as the National Commonwealth Memorial to Sir Winston Churchill, including paintings by Luce, Lutyens and Romney and a large tapestry by Lurcat. However, over the years, and especially more recently, our strategy for displaying the most engaging works of art has become increasingly ambitious and long term.
While there was no distinct theme or policy for collecting works of art at its founding, the College did make a commitment to modern art from the outset. In the early 1960s, during the construction of the college, the pioneering British sculptor, Geoffrey Clarke was commissioned to design a gate for the front entrance, the resulting work is a sculpture cast in aluminium and a functioning piece of architectural design. This period also witnessed works by Henry Moore, an Honorary Fellow of the college, being loaned to display in the grounds of our 42 acre site. Other large-scale outdoor sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Bernard Meadows and Denis Mitchell were to follow. It also saw the largest donation of works of art in the College’s history, from a French collector of early 20th century French landscape paintings, and contains a bust by Bourdelle and a portrait drawing by Derain.
Sculptures, paintings, prints and textiles displayed indoors also serve to enhance the buildings and create an environment of engagement, reflection and inspiration. Artworks relating to our founder, for example the busts by Jacob Epstein and Oscar Nemon, are monumentally impressive, for like the paintings we own by Winston Churchill himself, they celebrate the relation between powerfulness and creativity. The college tradition of honouring each Masters with an oil painting has attracted a number of other distinguished artists to the college too, including Rodrigo Moynihan, Tom Phillips and, most recently, Tai Shan Schierenberg.
Through purchases, loans and gifts, the College’s Hanging Committee has been particularly active in the period 2008-2012 with new acquisitions for the collection. Highlights included prints by Patrick Caulfield, Tony Bevan, Gary Hume, Albert Irvin, John Hoyland and David Nash. These hang alongside the earlier efforts of the Committee, including sets of prints by Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Reilly and Andy Warhol.
We continue to promote engagement with the works in our collection through a wide-ranging series of events, including a programme of curated exhibitions, tours of the collection and lectures by artists, art historians and critics.
— Barry Phipps, Fellow & Curator of Works of Art