ABOUT THE CORNWALL COUNCIL SCHOOLS ART COLLECTION
On 6 May 1961, Cornwall County Council received an anonymous donation of £100, made up of twenty £5 notes, with a short note saying simply ‘To help Primary School Funds’. Attempts were made to trace the source of the donation through the post office, but efforts failed. Various meetings of the Education Sub-Committee were held to try and decide what best to do with the money, and it was felt that it should be used for something specific, rather than just subsumed into general funds and after much debate, art was agreed upon.
In September 1961, the council’s Secretary for Education, Jim Harries, wrote to the artists John Piper, Peter Lanyon, Barbara Hepworth and Jacob Epstein’s recent widow, Lady Epstein, explaining what had happened and asking if they might be able to sell something at a reasonable price, or had any other suggestions. They all replied and Barbara Hepworth suggested a scheme of approaching a range of artists to ask them to each supply a piece at a minimal cost. The first work to be acquired was ‘Frisky’, a small bronze sculpture of Epstein’s beloved sheepdog, at a reduced cost of £130. This sculpture was sent out on tour to schools in Cornwall, and being well received, the council agreed to an initial annual acquisitions budget of £200, with the majority of the collection being acquired between 1961-68. Hepworth, along with Michael Finn, the Principal of Falmouth School of Art, were the council’s advisors and Hepworth herself was particularly generous, alongside such other artists as Sir Terry Frost, Ben Nicholson, Leonard Fuller, Alethea Garstin, Patrick Heron, Bernard Leach, Janet Leach, William Marshall, Kenneth Quick, Alexander MacKenzie, Lionel Miskin, Denis Mitchell, Dod Proctor, Breon O’Casey, John Milne, John Wells, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Patrick Hayman, Bryan Wynter and many others over the decades.