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Collected Through Love: The Michael Woodford Bequest

[ Exhibition )

Lithograph by Graham Sutherland in green, black and white, in a Japanese style.

Graham Sutherland, lithograph on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Michael Woodford Bequest 2015), ©The Estate of Graham Sutherland

An extraordinary art collection of former bin man and school caretaker Michael Woodford, featuring works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Graham Sutherland and more.

These impressive works were displayed to celebrate Woodford’s lifelong endeavor and his generous gift to our permanent collection. His bequest demonstrates that collecting art does not necessarily have to be the domain of a wealthy elite, but can be a pleasure enjoyed and shared by anyone.

When our curators went to visit Woodford at his home in Kent, they found a former council-owned maisonette crammed with furniture. Once inside, every wall was covered with notable etchings, linocuts and watercolours by some of the most significant artists of the 20th century.

From a young age, Michael had an overwhelming passion for art. He visited exhibitions of his favourite artists up and down the country and collected more than 700 art books (some of which were also given to the Gallery’s library, including around 100 books on Picasso). He was also an amateur artist himself, going on painting trips to Wales, exhibiting his work in local art shows and even designing stained glass windows for a chapel in Cranbrook.

Woodford was inspired to bequeath his collection to Pallant House Gallery after seeing a small exhibition of Graham Sutherland’s work in 2003, one of his artistic heroes. In one of his letters, now in the Gallery’s archive, Michael expressed his delight that “such a fine collection has accepted my bequest, so that in time, many others may enjoy that privilege which I currently possess”. He described his artworks as “a bequest by a ‘minor’ collector (not a rich rock star!) collected through ‘love’ and when finance permitted!” It is an inspiring story, demonstrating that collecting art can be enjoyed and shared by anyone.

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on s.norris@pallant.org.uk.

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