SUTHERLAND, Helen: letters to Jim and Helen Ede

Scope and Content

The letters of Helen Sutherland to Jim Ede contained in this collection make mention of a large number of people and provide information concerning the wide-ranging network they both had. In the early years of their correspondence Jim Ede's wife, Helen, also wrote directly to Helen Sutherland, but in the later period the correspondence was with Jim Ede only, though both Edes and their two daughters were frequent visitors to the Sutherland household in London or in the north. There is much information concerning parties, dinners, visits to friends, concerts etc., but also of the serious exchange of views and information about culture. The friendship with Ben and Winifred Nicholson is at the heart of the correspondence, along with that of David Jones. Ede and Sutherland arrange for regular sums of money to be sent to David Jones and for the setting up of a pension for him. Both also visit Brancusi and Picasso in Paris. Another strand in the correspondence is their knowledge of music and musicians, most notably the pianist, Vera Moore, who had a relationship with Brancusi and a son with him, but also the French flautist, Rene le Roy and the Hungarian violinist, Jelly d'Aranyi. When in the country she mixed with the local aristocracy, but was also involved with village life. Sutherland and Ede exchange notes about their reading of poetry and philosophy, their views on the nature of God and organised religion. The correspondence gives a clear picture of their close relationship and their ability to express themselves clearly with each other. Sutherland wished to use her wealth and properties to create as she said ' a place of retreat and renewal' for her friends and the letters give some flavour of how she went about this.

Administrative / Biographical History

Helen Christian Sutherland (1881-1965) was a collector and patron of the arts. She was the daughter of Mary Alice Morris and Sir Thomas Sutherland, Liberal MP and ship owner. From her father she inherited a love of travel and culture. She inherited a substantial fortune from her mother and was able to afford residences in London and in the north of England, first at Rock Hall in Northumberland and then at Cockley Moor in Cumbria. Through her family and her interest in art, she was able to build up a substantial network of connections with artists and intellectuals, and to entertain them in London and in the north of England. After her marriage to Richard Denman was annulled in 1913, she used her time and talents to maintain this circle and to support her friends. She was also a deeply religious woman and moved from Anglicanism to Catholicism. She read widely: art, philosophy, religious thought. Her circle included musicians, politicians, members of the gentry, artists, poets. She also had a substantial collection of art of her own, including works by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, and David Jones. She became a close friend and confidante of Jim Ede and wrote to him very regularly in the period 1926-32. Later in life, she was a patron of the 'Ashingdon Artists', men who worked in coal mining in the north east of England and who took up painting as a form of relaxation. With Sutherland's help they went on to exhibit widely. When she became frail she moved south to Stoke Poges; she sold some of her collection; other pieces she gave to Nicolette Gray, her goddaughter and close friends. The pieces sold fund their way into national collections including the British Museum, the Tate and Kettles Yard. Nicolette Gray (daughter of Laurence Binyon, curator at the British Museum) was a great support to Sutherland at the end of her life and curated an exhibition on Sutherland as a collector in 1970. The catalogue was published by the Arts Council.