County Council art collection disposal continues

Published: 01 Mar 2019

Plans for the Hertfordshire County Council art collection, which has been mainly held in storage, continue with works being gifted to local organisations for display and a number sold at auction.

The county council began to acquire the paintings in 1949 as part of the School Loan Collection, a post-war initiative which involved obtaining artworks for schools to borrow from the council, thereby exposing students to contemporary art. However, the service became less relevant to the evolving curriculum and it was suspended in 2012 and permanently discontinued in 2017.

At that time, the county council decided that, due to the number of artworks and the lack of resources to manage it properly, the collection posed a significant liability which could result in the works remaining in storage where conditions are not ideal and conservation needs are not addressed. It was therefore decided to gift a number of the pieces to schools, museums and interested organisations in the county, and sell a number of the works, retaining a small manageable number in the collection.

To date, 112 works have already been accepted as gifts by Hertfordshire organisations. These include works by Michael Brennard-Wood, Maurice Field, Launce Gribbin, Robin Mackertich, Leo McDowell, John Mills, Brynhild Parker and Marie Whitby.

A further 1,074 works will be offered later this year.

167 works are being retained by Hertfordshire County Council and include five wall hangings by the pre-eminent British artist weaver, Peter Collingwood. One of these is displayed in Welwyn Garden City library and plans are being made for the four other works to be conserved and publicly displayed.

Also being retained are works by notable Hertfordshire artists including John Akers, Rory J Browne, Mary Hoad, Henry Moore and David Stowe.

152 paintings will be offered for sale at Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers in Cambridge on 21 March. These include works by 20th century British artists, John Tunnard, Edward Wadsworth, Barbara Hepworth, and other prominent painters such as Joan Eardley, Julian Trevelyan, Anne Redpath, Robert McBryde and John Minton.

Explaining the decision to dispose of much of the art collection, Terry Douris, Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism, said: “It is the sensible thing to do. With 60 per cent of the art collection languishing in storage and not available to the public, the county council believes that the approach it is taking to the art collection balances its fiduciary duty to its council tax payers to use the full resources available to it to best advantage, whilst aiming to achieve much improved access and display of the retained collection for the public.”

The auction will be held at Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge CB1 7EA on 21 March at 11am. For more information on the sale and viewing times visit

Two further auctions of works will be held in April and May.