Cambridgeshire County Council set to unload its entire 400 or so paintings built up over nearly 70 years as part of children’s collection

PUBLISHED: 22:17 29 August 2015 | UPDATED: 23:08 30 August 2015

Robert MacBryde
Red and Black Still Life
( Collection of Original Works for Children in Cambridgeshire. Photography by Marc Mageean)

Robert MacBryde Red and Black Still Life ( Collection of Original Works for Children in Cambridgeshire. Photography by Marc Mageean)


Hundreds of rarely seen paintings – owned by Cambridgeshire County Council as part of a children’s collection built up since the last war- are to be sold.

A report to councillors asking for approval to sell the collections says that interest from schools wanting to borrow the works has declined.

“In 2015 there were no requests to borrow art works from the collection despite termly reminders to schools,” says the report.

Set up in 1947, the county council’s school art collection was founded and driven by painter and educator Nan Youngman, art adviser to Cambridgeshire’s Director of Education, Henry Morris.

One of her biggest and earliest successes, Ms Youngman later recalled, was after she accompanied Morris to London to buy a painting by L S Lowry for around £35. In 2009 the county council sold it for £400,000.

Today the council collection consists of over 400 art works, mainly pictures but with a small number of sculptures. The collection is stored at Cambridgeshire Music, Papworth Everard and is managed by the Cambridgeshire Culture Steering Group.

Ten years ago the collection was valued at up to £20,000 by Christie’s who have, again, been asked to provide a 2015 valuation.

The council is also expected to sell a “high specification storage unit” that houses the collection – bought for £20,000.

However what is termed a “small legacy collection” to include the works by Nan Youngman is kept and 23 loaned works are returned to their owners.

Christie’s Auction has suggested the collection could be worth around £50,000, primarily due to a rise in popularity of the artist Robert MacBryde, who painted two of the pictures in the collections.

Christie’s has also recommended that 11 of the pictures should be sold as individual lots with the remaining art works sold in lots of 20-30 pieces.

Any unsold works “will be returned to the council for sale, donation or disposal locally”.

It is expected that money from the auction will be put into the Cambridgeshire Culture Fund to support activities for all children and young people.

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