A Collection of CollectionsA Collection of Collections

The Charles Kearley Collection

The Kearley Bequest came to Pallant House Gallery through the National Art Collections Fund in 1989.

Charles Kearley’s bequest is remarkably complementary to that of Hussey, featuring many of the same artists but including works by a number of continental 20th century artists such as Paul Cézanne, André Derain, Fernand Léger and Gino Severini.

Kearley inherited his father’s property development business and undertook a number of projects in the 1930s including flats by the architects Myerscough-Walker and Maxwell Fry that are recognised as important examples of modernist housing. Kearley took Fry’s openplan penthouse flat in Kensal House in Ladbroke Grove for himself and his need to furnish it prompted the start of his art collection. Many of his purchases were bought on the advice of the art critic R H Wilenski, a champion of Modern British art who helped Kearley develop his taste. With a budget of around £700 a year spent mostly at auction houses, the collection grew to include key works such as John Piper’s painting of a bombed-out church in Bristol, commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee, and Ben Nicholson’s ‘1946 (still life – cerulean)’, a work showing the influence of the Cubists and, in particular, Juan Gris.

Kearley’s house at Hathill Copse just outside Chichester, which he commissioned architect John Lomax to build in 1975, now the home of the Cass Sculpture Foundation, was a perfect setting for his collection. His approach had an aesthetic sense of purpose and the artworks complemented the modernist interior and vice versa. With no immediate family to whom to leave his collection, his gift to Pallant House Gallery, made through The Art Fund in 1989, was prompted by nothing more than an interest in the public good.