This coming summer holiday, I am writing a long essay on Kettle’s Yard. For those of you unfamiliar with this Cambridge collection, it is neither a gallery nor a museum… Uniquely, it is described as a ‘way of life’.


Kettle's Yard house

Exterior of Kettle's Yard


In a quiet corner of Cambridge, a two minute walk from Magdalene College, Kettle’s Yard was originally the home of Jim Ede, previously an assistant director at the Tate and was intended to act as a balanced space where modern art would be displayed alongside domestic and natural objects. From the outside, the building looks as if it could be anyone’s house; the brown/yellow brick building is pretty but not all that inspiring. It is from within that inspiration flows; central to the interior space are the ideas of physical and atmospheric harmony as well as cultural dynamism.


There is a real focus on the layout of objects and art in each room; there has to be enough space so that the visitor does not feel enclosed and is able to appreciate the art and artefacts around them. Shapes and colours of art or objects are meant to compliment one another so as to ensure they are pleasing to the eye. Ede’s intention was to create somewhere that students and young people could enjoy modern art and feel at home in a tranquil space. He wanted to create a contrast to more austere museums or public art galleries.


I first came across Kettle’s Yard in circumstances that I think Ede would be satisfied with. It was the beginning of my second week at Cambridge. I had just begun as a bright-eyed fresher although was feeling overwhelmed thanks to the combination of late nights and a sudden swamping workload… plus the fact that I was essentially living off alcohol, coffee and cold baked beans. I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to sit down and relax since I had arrived. My trip to Kettle’s Yard was an hour of the week when I decided to take some time out and see what else Cambridge had to offer beyond the clubs, Sainsbury’s and the college library. I entered the house and immediately felt myself relax. My essay worries were put to one side and I sat in the ‘sitting room’ able to focus my mind on something completely different to the Norman Conquest (first essay at Cambridge=disaster). It was at this point, now nearly a year ago, that I was first inspired to look into Kettle’s Yard and I continue to appreciate the serenity that it helps to create.


Jim Ede


But for this long essay, a part of the paper named: the history of collecting’ I need to go beyond my personal feelings and the origins of Kettle’s Yard, to contextualise both the collection and the man behind it…but where to begin?

These blogs are going to be a little record of my progress, interesting things I am reading and hopefully those who read will learn something too.

Next blog: Reading the ‘Rise of the Modern Art Market in London 1850-1939’ by Fletcher and Helmreich. An insight into the changing presentation of exhibitions in the twentieth century and links with Kettle’s Yard.





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