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Brought to Light

Explore highlights from the Herbert’s collection through paintings, drawings and sculptures which have been collected over the past 65 years.


Giant Head of Gbenga by Nahem Shoa

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John Hewitt was given the task of building a contemporary collection. He chose to collect works showing scenes of British life and landscape which he felt would appeal to Coventry citizens. Hewitt held strong socialist views, and this is reflected in the works he selected, which included many views of British towns and cities and working class people going about their everyday lives. Hewitt also collected a small number of more radical works by artists like Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, as he wanted to reflect current ideas in art. Hewitt retired in 1972. 

In the 1980s the Herbert showed several exhibitions by young Black artists, including The Pan Afrikan Connection, which showcased work by the Blk Art Group. Key acquisitions currently were two paintings by the South African artist Gavin Jantjes.  

Since around 2010 the focus of the Herbert’s collecting has been on themes of conflict, peace, and reconciliation. This reflects the city’s role in promoting peace and reconciliation internationally, which grew out of the destruction of the Second World War. This unique collection contains works which deal with conflicts from the First World War to the present day.  

Most recently a key priority for collecting has been works by Black artists and female artists, to redress a historic imbalance in the collection. These works often overlap with existing themes in the collection around British life and landscape, and conflict and reconciliation. 

Our newest acquisition is The Madonna of the Cat, after Barocci by Ali Cherri, which you can see in the exhibition next door.

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