12 November 2018
Director, Andrew Nairne wrote this blog on 11 November 2018, to commemorate 100 years since Armistice Day.
Remembering today all those who died and who fought in the First World War, makes me think of the pioneering sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska who was killed in action near Arras on the 5th June 1915, aged twenty-three. Henry Moore was to later write: ‘Gaudier’s writings and sculpture meant an enormous amount – they were a confirmation to me as a young person that everything was possible’.
H.S. (Jim) Ede, who created Kettle’s Yard in 1957, was also fighting in France in 1915. He had joined the South Welsh Borderers in 1914. In early 1916 he was sent back from the front. He could hardly walk, suffering from gastritis, jaundice and a nervous breakdown, which today we would recognise as a form of PTSD. We believe that Ede’s experience of the war had a profound impact on his outlook and his creation of Kettle’s Yard.
Ede discovered the work of Gaudier-Brzeska in the 1920s and acquired most of the artists’ estate. He saw championing the artist as an almost sacred duty. As Alan Bowness has noted ‘Gaudier-Brzeska was killed in the war that Jim survived’. Kettle’s Yard is in many ways a house of Gaudier-Brzeska, with sculptures and drawings in every room.
Jim Ede did not consider Kettle’s Yard to be a museum. He described it instead as ‘a space, an ambience, a home’. For many visitors, Kettle’s Yard feels like a refuge or sanctuary, a place of calm, renewal and inspiration. The extreme care with which Ede placed every art work and found object (the beautiful arrangements of pebbles and shells, alongside paintings, sculpture and often cracked or mended ceramics) suggests a searching for coherence, a holding together of fragments, in a century of devastating wars. In his book ‘A Way of Life’, Ede speaks often of the need for balance. Ede may have recalled something Gaudier-Brzeska wrote in 1912: ‘Art creates balance, it saves the world from ruin and from dying out’.