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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Kettles Yard House- 'The Louvre of the Pebble'

On a sunny afternoon with the light streaming in through the windows of Helen and Jim Ede's former home you find yourself washed up on the pebbled beach of Cambridge. It doesn't matter that it's winter and you had to don five layers before you left the house, close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on your face and its summer, with the gentle roar of the waves in the distance.
Remnants of the beach brought home and a small version of Brzeska's bird swallowing a fish made to be carried around in your pocket!

The Ede's were clever to fill their house with so much magic; whitewashed walls and scrubbed pine furniture, the paintings of seascapes and boats on the water all begin the transformation of interior and exterior. There is driftwood in the fireplace ready to burn, shells and swirls of pebbles, beach detritus and greeny blue glass floats hanging in alcoves and cabinets and resting on wooden tables. You can take the house away from the sea, but you can't take the sea from the house. Decorated with the spoils of a morning's beachcombing, it is this metamorphosis of surroundings and location which makes me love the Kettles Yard house.

In the top picture you can see a Joan Miro and in the bottom, Brzeska's Redstone Dancer leading us to the piano.

The house represents the private collection of former curator of the Tate Gallery, Jim Ede, and his wife Helen. With the bookshelves and pebbles left untouched as if the couple had just gone out for an afternoon walk, we are left to make intelligent guesses about who the works are by, or else ask intelligent questions. The collection includes work by Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, David Jones, Christopher Wood and the attic is a treasure trove of Gaudier-Brzeska drawings, prints and sculptures. For me the highlights include; Brzeska's duck swallowing a fish beached on a great amputated tree trunk, Ben Nicholson's print of numbers and letters on fabric which the Ede's appear to have turned in to a bathroom blind, and the great oak table which serves as a library for visitors to plunder expensive and rare art books.

As I leave the woman tells me to come back tomorrow, a little earlier, so that the light will be better. Your visit should be all about the light. At what time will the light through the windows best illuminate the paintings and sculptures? When will rainbow sparks fly through perspex glass discs and inscribed glass panels? When might the pink stretches of sunset imbue the whole visit with the perfect atmosphere? This is why it is best to return to the house again and again, to read the books and spend quiet minutes sitting in chairs in the changing light of the day and the seasons.
Today I went on a David Jones Pilgrimage to see the paintings, drawings, prints and inscriptions which I hadn't given much time to before I discovered Jones this summer, but I will write more on that later.


  1. Kettle Yard is exactly how I imagine my dream home. I love that place.

  2. likewise... wonderful space.. great that visitors are able to sit in the chairs and take it all in.