Harold Stanley [‘Jim’] Ede was born on 7 April 1895 near Cardiff. He attended the Leys School in Cambridge, studied painting at Newlyn Art School and, after service in the First World War, attended the Slade School of Art in London. Writing about the formation of Kettle’s Yard, Ede mentions that, although the early inspiration came from his meeting with Ben and Winifred Nicholson in 1924, his love for painting and his desire to become a painter started well before that:
‘I was 15 at the Leys School in Cambridge and fell in love with early Italian painting . . . and before that at thirteen when I first visited the Louvre, saw nothing, but fell for Puvis de Chavannes . . .’
Leaving the Slade after one year, Jim Ede worked in the photographic department of the National Gallery, London, while continuing to paint. He was then appointed Assistant at the Tate Gallery, London, a change he describes as ‘phenomenal’:
‘I gave up painting and became absorbed in the work of contemporary artists. I wrote a great deal about modern painting and sculpture, and came to know most of the leading artists of the day, and also the ones who were not yet known.’
It was while at the Tate that he formed important friendships with Ben Nicholson, David Jones and other artists, and acquired the greater part of the estate of Sophie Brzeska, the partner of the sculptor, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, who had been killed in the First World War.
In 1935-36 Ede resigned from the Tate and built a house on the outskirts of Tangier, Morocco. During the war years Jim travelled to the USA, with Helen, on lecture tours, with funds raised being contributed to Allied War Relief. They lived in Morocco until 1952 when they moved to Les Charlottières, Chailles, near Amboise in the Loire Valley, France. The Edes moved to Cambridge in 1956 and renovated four derelict cottages to create Kettle’s Yard.
Jim and Helen Ede left for Edinburgh in 1973, where Helen died in 1977; Jim spending the last years of his life as a hospital visitor until his death in 1990.
Jim Ede wrote ‘A Way of Life’ about Kettle’s Yard. Put together as lovingly as Kettle’s Yard itself, it takes the form of a guided tour: you enter the door and go round the house, taking in the rooms one by one, seeing the light play on glass, china, wood, stone and canvas, and seeing how the art and the living-space bring each other alive. A series of remarkable black and white photographs catches the spirit that Jim Ede was trying to evoke, and the text comments on them.
The visit is interwoven with Ede’s account of earlier attempts to create the same wholeness in previous houses in London, Morocco and France. He has also placed in the spaces and intervals of the book his choice of poetic texts; an anthology which indicates the spirit in which he has worked. ‘A Way of Life’ can be bought here.