Treasures from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Thursday 16th May, 2013 - Sunday 1st September, 2013
Price: Admission Free
This display forms part of an extensive programme of events to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham.
The Institute was founded in December 1932 by Hattie, Lady Barber (1869-1933), widow of the late Sir Henry Barber, Bt (1860-1927), a highly successful Birmingham property developer and lawyer. It was funded by the bequest of their substantial fortune to the Henry Barber Trust. Unlike the Wallace Collection, also founded by the widow of a very wealthy man, there was no significant accompanying fine art collection (although Lady Barber did acquire some good tapestries, textiles and lace). The Barber, which opened in July 1939 as a centre of excellence 'for the study and encouragement of art and music', therefore developed its art collection almost exclusively through purchase.
Lady Barber stipulated that this art collection should consist of 'works of art or beauty of exceptional and outstanding merit', and be 'of that standard of quality required by the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection'. The exhibits in this display suggest the extent to which this has been acheived in respect of the decorative arts and sculpture, while a parallel exhibition at the National Gallery considers the first paintings purchased for the Barber (Birth of a Collection: Masterpieces from the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, 22 May - 1 September).
Lady Barber would have been delighted to know that some of the treasures acquired in her husband's name would one day be displayed at the Wallace Collection. Visitors can find the display in the Porphyry Court, on the lower ground floor.
An accompanying anniversary book, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts: Foundation of a Collection (Scala Publishers, 2012), is available in the bookshop.