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Jim Ede was the creator of Kettle's Yard.
Find out about his life and work through this interactive timeline.
Kettle’s Yard creator Jim Ede is born
Harold Stanley ‘Jim’ Ede is born in Penarth, near Cardiff, the son of Edward Hornby Ede (solicitor) and Mildred Ede (schoolteacher).
Jim goes to school in Taunton, Caen (France) and Cambridge
As a teenager, Jim went to school in Caen, France for a year, and then attended the Leys School in Cambridge. He left school at 15 and a half due to illness.
‘I started as a painter…’
Jim studies painting at Stanhope Forbes academy in Newlyn, Cornwall. He also attends Edinburgh School of Art, where he meets Helen Schlapp, who is a student there.
Listen below to Jim and Helen’s daughter, Elisabeth Swan, describing how her parents met.
‘…but the war of 1914 interrupted all that’
Jim serves as an officer on the Western Front during the First World War.
Open House in Trinity College
Having been wounded (and possibly suffering from shell-shock), he returns to Cambridge to recruit and train officer cadets at Trinity College. While there he keeps ‘open house’ three nights a week for his men. He is then posted to India for 18 months.
Jim and Helen are married, and move to Hampstead
Helen and Jim marry in January. Jim had been studying at the Slade, but leaves to become Photographic Assistant at the National Gallery. Helen takes up the post of art teacher at King Alfred’s School, Hampstead. Their first daughter, Elisabeth, is born in November.
Listen below to Elisabeth describing the artists, writers, musicians and actors who visited the family when they lived at 1 Elm Row in Hampstead.
A friend of artists
Jim holds a curatorial post at the Tate Gallery and acts as Secretary to the Contemporary Art Society. He makes regular trips to Paris, where he meets Joan Miro, Constantin Brancusi, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.
The Nicholsons opened a door into the world of Contemporary Art
Jim and Helen meet Ben and Winifred Nicholson and later, through them, Christopher Wood. David Jones also becomes a close friend and Jim began to collect the work of these artists. Their second daughter, Mary, is born in August.
‘I paint things what used to be’
Jim begins corresponding with Alfred Wallis and buying his paintings.
‘An astonishing picture of two rare people’ – T E Lawrence
Jim’s limited edition ‘Life of Gaudier Brzeska’ is published in 1930. In 1931, it is republished as ‘Savage Messiah’ and becomes a best seller. Jim acquires almost the entire output of the French sculptor in 1927, and bases his book on Henri’s correspondence with his partner Sophie.
Jim and Helen move to Tangier
Jim resigns from the Tate Gallery and the Contemporary Art Society. He and Helen begin spending part of the year in Tangier, where they commission a modernist house known as White Stone. Elisabeth and Mary accompany them for a year 1937-8 then return to Great Britain to a boarding school in Edinburgh.
In the clip below Mary talks about her parents decision to move to Tangier.
A lecturer in search of an audience
Accompanied by Helen, Jim travels to the United States to give a series of lecture tours in aid of the Allied War Relief Fund. It is during these visits that he befriends the artists Richard Pousette-Dart and Wiliam Congdon.
War work in Cardiff and Cambridge
The Edes return to Britain, spending time in Cardiff and Cambridge. They are involved in educational activities in support of the war effort.
Open House in Tangier
Jim and Helen return to Tangier to establish a scheme of weekend retreats for small groups of soldiers stationed at Gibraltar.
Jim and Helen move to France
In April, Jim and Helen move to Les Charlottières, a farmhouse near Blois, in the Loire Valley, France. Jim travels to the United States for his last lecture tour.
‘in the midst of a quixotic scheme’
The Edes move to Cambridge in order to realise Jim’s final scheme ‘to be lent a great house on the verge of a city – or a place of beauty in a town (Cambridge I have in mind) + make it all that I could of lived in beauty, + each room an atmosphere of quiet and simple charm + open to the public (in Cambridge to students especially)’
With help from the architect Rowland de Winton Aldridge, Jim renovates four dilapidated 19th century cottages, converting them into a single house. At the end of the year, the Edes’ new home, Kettle’s Yard, is opened to university students every weekday afternoon during term. Jim resumes collecting, and over the following years he befriends and acquires works by Italo Valenti, George Kennethson, and Elisabeth Vellacott, amongst others.
‘There should be a Kettle’s Yard in every university’
Kettle’s Yard is formally given to the University of Cambridge, with Jim staying on as ‘honorary curator’.
Listen to Jim give an introduction to Kettle’s Yard below.
Jim is promoted to Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur
Jim is promoted to Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (having received the Légion d’Honneur in 1959) after making significant gifts of works by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska to French museums.
‘To play in a beautiful place, where art is a very treasured thing’
An extension to the house and a small gallery, designed by Sir Leslie Martin and David Owers, are officially opened by Prince Charles with a performance by Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré.
Listen to Jim and Helen’s daughter Elisabeth describe the opening party below.
Jim and Helen retire to Edinburgh
Jim and Helen Ede leave Cambridge and retire to Edinburgh. Jim begins visiting hospital patients at St Columba’s Hospice.
After a long battle with cancer Helen passes away at home in Edinburgh. Listen to Helen’s daughter Elisabeth describe her below.
This memorial plaque in St Peter’s Church next door to Kettle’s Yard is made of the hard-wearing limestone, Birds Eye. The Kindersley Workshop worked closely with both of Jim Ede’s daughters to get the stone right.