Modern British & Irish Art

Important Works by Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson Lead Collection of Modern British Art

By Bryn Sayles
The collection of Lea Ford forms part of Sotheby's Made in Britain sale on 20 March, including fantastic works by Patrick Heron, Wilhelmina Barns Graham and Ben Nicholson. We take a closer look at the collector who formed close relationships with artists who were integral to the post-war Modern British Art scene.

L ea Ford has had a lifelong involvement with fine art. She attended art school in Cambridge, taught art at various secondary schools and was an art examiner for school and college examinations until the mid-1960s. Later she was an antique dealer, and restored ceramics for the London auction houses.

Lea adored St Ives, where she began to visit in the 1950s. The sleepy fishing village in Cornwall had attracted artists since the late 19th century, and with the advent of the Second World War, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, reestablished it as an avant garde artists’ colony. Following the war it became a hub for creativity which rivaled what was being produced in London at that time.

Through frequent visits to St Ives Lea became friends with Wilhelmina Barns Graham, as well as others who lived and worked in the area. She bought many of the pieces included in this sale from galleries in St Ives (including the Wills Lane Gallery, Penwith Galleries and Porthminster Gallery) as well as from nearby auctions.

In London in the mid-1960s, where she got to know artists such as David Carr, Lea owned a studio on Rumbold Street near Worlds End in Chelsea, which was close to where she lived. She rented it as a studio space to artists and Patrick Heron and Prunella Clough were among those who worked there for a time.

Some of the art works in her collection were acquired as gifts in return for the loan of the studio. Patrick Heron in fact produced a group of paintings that took their name from Rumbold Street - the vertical Rumbold paintings of 1970 with attenuated wobbly vertical right edges and hovering discs.

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