Truth and Beauty – The 20th Century British Art of Pioneering Collector Helen Sutherland

30 December 2021

In 2022, Maltings (formerly Berwick Visual Arts) will stage an exhibition that focuses on the remarkable, if little researched life of the British art patron and collector, Helen Sutherland (1881–1965).

It explores the importance of her early patronage of artists – such as Ben (1894-1982) and Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981), & David Jones (1895-1974) – within the context of the development of modern British art in the early 1930s.

In 1925, Sutherland met the Nicholsons and bought two of their paintings, which set her off on a journey of discovery into the world of modern British art. This resulted in her becoming an important patron of a number of emerging artists – one of few women to be doing this – at a time when the art world establishment was initially reluctant to engage with modern art and its creators. Sutherland was brave and bought art no one else was buying – she was one of Piet Mondrian’s (1872-1944), early English supporters, buying a picture by him in 1938.

In 1928 she leased Rock Hall, near Alnwick in Northumberland, partly with the intention to provide a place for her circle of friends to stay. During her 11-year tenure of the 18th-century country house, the Nicholsons and David Jones were regular guests, and it was during this period that much of her patronage occurred.

Truth and Beauty features a number of loans from private collections that span the entire duration of the time she collected art with works by artists including Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Piet Mondrian, Henry Moore (1898-1986) and Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) represented. These will be displayed alongside works originally purchased by Sutherland, but are now in public collections including Tate, National Galleries of Scotland and Kettles Yard.

James Lowther, Head of Visual Art, Maltings says “Helen Sutherland was a unique supporter of modern British art and artists, helping artists such as Ben Nicholson and David Jones throughout their careers. We are delighted to be able to explore the importance of her contribution to 20th-entury British art through this exhibition and are grateful to all the lenders of works from her collection to help us tell this story.”

The Chapel in the Park, 1932. David Jones. Purchased from the Redfern Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1940. © The Trustees of the David Jones Estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo: Tate