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Foundations of a Collection

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Robert Wenley (ed.)

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 814 8

    Size: 248 x 200mm / 7.75 x 9.75 in.

    Binding: Paperback

    Pages: 160

    In association with:

    Date published: December, 2012

    UK £16.95 /US $25


  • Accompanies a series of exhibitions at the Barber Institute, from December 2012 to December 2013; and at the National Gallery, London, in 2013
  • A collection of essays providing a fascinating insight into the revered Barber Institute and celebrating the 80 years since its conception


The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham was founded in 1932 by Lady Barber, widow of Sir Henry Barber, a wealthy local property developer and lawyer, ‘for the study and encouragement of art and music’. The Barbers’ lives, interests and motivations for founding the Institute, and for providing a source of substantial income to build and develop it, are the subject of one of the five essays in this book. Following an introduction that considers some of the models for the Barber, other chapters explore the University’s response to Lady Barber’s initiative; the career of the Barber’s first Director, Thomas Bodkin, and the remarkable acquisitions of fine and decorative arts he made for it; and the great impact of Lady Barber’s gift on musical life at the University.

This book celebrates the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Barber. It is the product of extensive new research by a team of authors, and provides a fascinating and valuable insight into the conception, birth and formative years of one of the UK’s most revered cultural institutions.

Author information

Robert Wenley is the Acting Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.