Papers of Betty Rea

Scope and Content

The archive consists of an album of photographs and over 200 loose photographs that record Rea and her sculpture. There is a series of correspondence and papers which covers the organisation of various exhibitions Rea took part in; papers and letters relating to the Huntington Anglo-Soviet Committee with which she was involved from the 1940s; and personal papers and letters to her long-term companion, Nancy Mayhew (Nan) Youngman (1906-1995) about Rea, after her death. There are over forty exhibition catalogues and private view cards, 1932-1992. Among these are the items associated with the 'Looking at People' exhibitions, which took place between 1955-1957, and include the catalogue and poster to the exhibition when it travelled to the Pushkin Museum in the Soviet Union, 1957. There is a sketchbook, mainly with drawings of figures, some of which are related to her sculpture; over 100 press cuttings, mainly relating to exhibitions; seven articles about Rea, 1934-1991; and an undated list of her sculptures compiled by the artist.

Administrative / Biographical History

Betty Rea was born in London in 1922. She studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art where Henry Moore was a student teacher – the two sculptors became great friends. In April 1926 she married a law student called James Russell Rea (1902–1954). Their short-lived marriage produced two sons. Rea and her children later lived with her long-term companion the painter Nancy (Nan) Youngman (1906-1995). By the late 1930s Rea had become a passionately committed Socialist and anti-Fascist and she was greatly involved in cultural events promoting these causes. Rea was a founder member of Artists’ International Association and also the Chair of the Arts Peace Campaign. In 1937 she worked upon a mural in Unofficial Peace Pavilion at Paris World Fair.Betty Rea’s archive gives a fascinating glimpse into both her artistic practice and the social and political world which she inhabited.

Access Information

Available to all registered researchers. The Archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

Please consult with the HMI Archivist

Archivist's Note

Hub Description created by Janette Martin. Biographical information from 'Betty Marion Rea', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [, accessed 08 Dec 2015]

Related Material

"Girls in the Wind", 1956-7 is in the Leeds City Art Gallery collection.


B. Robertson, Betty Rea 1904-1965, Zwemmer Gallery, London, 1965, (exh. cat.). K. Deepwell, Ten Decades : Careers of Ten Women Artists born 1897-1906, Norwich Gallery, Norfolk Institute of Art and Design, 30 March to 16 May 1992, (exh. cat.).