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The University of Reading's Art Collection comprises around 1000 works of painting, drawing, sculpture and graphic art. The Collection also includes many pieces of national and international significance. We are based at the former St Andrews Hall, alongside the Museum of English Rural Life, and are part of the University Museums and Special Collections Service.


Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Dr Hannah Lyons, Curator of University Art Collections, at University of Reading Art Collection on 12th July 2023. You can watch a recording of the talk on Art UK's YouTube channel.

6 artworks

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Study for the Head of Marie de'Medici
Photo credit: University of Reading Art Collection

Study for the Head of Marie de'Medici

Measuring just 10cm high by 8cm wide, this small chalk drawing is one of the earliest works in the University of Reading’s Art Collection. Created by one of the most prominent artists in 17th century Europe, Peter Paul Rubens, this sketch depicts the powerful Marie de Medici, who became Queen of France after her marriage to King Henri IV.

Marie de Medici became one of Rubens’ most important patrons, commissioning a suite of allegorical paintings from him. These monumental canvases – which can now be seen at the Musée du Louvre - were to be displayed in her royal residence of Luxembourg Palace in Paris. This drawing is a study for the face of Marie de Medici from one of these works.

Study for the Head of Marie de'Medici
Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)
Chalk on paper
H 10.8 x W 8.9 cm
University of Reading Art Collection

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Dancing Figures
© University of Reading Art Collection. Photo credit: University of Reading Art Collection

Dancing Figures

Recognised as the first cubist artist in America, Max Weber was one of the country’s earliest and most influential modernist painters. Weber learnt about cubism from Picasso during his travels in Europe between 1905-1908.

The intertwined angular shapes in this image invite closer looking. However, it’s not long before you notice the female figure, identified as the celebrated dancer Ruth St. Denis, at the forefront of the work.

The University of Reading owns 14 paintings by Weber: the only collection of his paintings in the UK, and indeed, the largest public collection of his works outside of the United States.

Dancing Figures 1912
Max Weber (1881–1961)
Pastel on paper
H 62 x W 47 cm
University of Reading Art Collection

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Willesden Junction, Early Morning
© the artist's estate. Photo credit: University of Reading Art Collection

Willesden Junction, Early Morning

The monumental Willesden Junction, Early Morning, by Leon Kossoff, is permanently displayed on the ground floor of the University of Reading’s Library.

Among the most accomplished painters of the late 20th and early 21st century, Kossoff has been unfairly overshadowed by fellow British artists such as Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.

Born in 1926 in Islington, to Jewish parents, Kossoff grew up in Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and Hackney, and studied at St Martin’s School of Art. As a Jewish person heavily impacted by the war, his paintings are among the most moving and powerful expressions of the postwar British sensibility.

Willesden Junction, Early Morning 1962
Leon Kossoff (1926–2019)
Oil on board
H 122 x W 221 cm
University of Reading Art Collection

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Climate Stripes: Warming Stripes, Global, 2020
© Ed Hawkins. Photo credit: Prof. Ed Hawkins, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading

Climate Stripes: Warming Stripes, Global, 2020

This striking image was designed by the University of Reading’s Professor Ed Hawkins. The artwork has been created from a series of vertical-coloured bars, each representing a year, showing the progressive heating of our planet since 1850.

Now a global phenomenon, this work reveals how artists and scientists use data visualisation techniques to communicate scientific research. ‘While the Climate Stripes have now been used across the world by millions of different people and organisations’, Hawkins has said, ‘their purpose remains almost identical to when I first created them – to spark conversations about our warming planet.’

Climate Stripes: Warming Stripes, Global, 2020 2021
Ed Hawkins
Digital
University of Reading Art Collection

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Study of the Discophoros (the Discus-Bearer)
Photo credit: University of Reading Art Collection

Study of the Discophoros (the Discus-Bearer)

The University Art Collection has around 125 drawings made by Minnie Jane Hardman, who lived and worked in late Victorian England. These drawings provide a rare insight into the formal training of a woman artist, when female students faced greater institutional barriers compared with their male peers.

Hardman studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in London between 1883-1889. As this was only 20 years after the Academy first began accepting female students in 1860, women were still not allowed to study from the nude in life drawing classes. Instead, female students were restricted to drawing from plaster casts and sculptures. In this drawing, Hardman has depicted a cast of Discophoros, drawn after a Roman copy of an Ancient Greek sculpture.

Study of the Discophoros (the Discus-Bearer) 1883–1889
Minnie Jane Hardman (1862–1952)
Graphite on wove paper
H 73.8 x W 45.1 cm
University of Reading Art Collection

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The Little Bed
Photo credit: University of Reading Art Collection

The Little Bed

In June 1938, the British artist, Walter Sickert, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Reading. This was orchestrated by his friend and Head of Fine Art, James Anthony Betts, who had been heavily influenced by Sickert’s modern subjects and techniques.

Thanks to Betts, the University Art Collection now holds 19 fascinating drawings by Walter Sickert, on a variety of subjects. Many of these drawings formed Betts’ original teaching collection, alongside other works by Old Masters and Betts’ contemporaries.

The Little Bed 1902
Walter Richard Sickert (1860–1942)
Graphite & charcoal on paper
H 23.7 x W 31.5 cm
University of Reading Art Collection