Benedict Read

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Benedict Read in Cyprus (photo: Michael Paraskos)

Benedict William Read, BA, FSA (1945 — 20 October 2016) was an English art historian. Usually known as Ben Read, he was the author of numerous books, essays and articles on nineteenth and twentieth century art history, and was one the most authoritative writers in the second half of the twentieth century on British Victorian sculpture.[1]

Early life[edit]

Read was born in Seer Green, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, son of art critic and poet Sir Herbert Read, younger brother of the writer Piers Paul Read and younger half-brother of BBC documentary maker John Read.[2] He went to Ampleforth College, a Roman Catholic boarding school run by Benedictine monks.

Academic career[edit]

Read studied Classics and English Literature at the University of Oxford and then Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. As well as teaching at the Courtauld Institute, Read was Deputy Witt Librarian there until 1990.

In 1990 Read was appointed Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Leeds where he was also Director of the MA Sculpture Studies programme from 1990 to 1997, under the auspices of the Henry Moore Foundation. On his retirement from the university in 2010 he was made Senior Visiting Research Fellow in Fine Art.[3]


Amongst his books are Victorian Sculpture[4] and Pre-Raphaelite Sculpture,[5] and he has contributed essays to numerous texts including the Albert Memorial[6] The Houses of Parliament[7] and The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires.[8] An extremely important essay by Read on British sculpture between the first and second world wars appeared in 1986 in the volume Sculpture in Britain Between the Wars.[9] Read BW (2011) "Preface" In: Steggles M & Barnes R "British Sculpture in India: New Views and Old Memories". Norwich: Frontier. 6–11.

Wider Interests[edit]

Benedict Read was external examiner for the Cyprus College of Art, chairperson of the editorial committee of the Sculpture Journal, former president of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, Chairman of the Leeds Art Collections Fund (the LACF) and a keen Arsenal supporter. He was also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

A committed Roman Catholic, Read was particularly interested in 20th-century Christian art and sat on the Roman Catholic Church's Historic Churches Committee for the Diocese of Leeds.


  1. ^ "Benedict Read » School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies". Retrieved 26 October 2016.
  2. ^ University of Leeds, Obituary
  3. ^ University of Leeds, Obituary
  4. ^ Victorian Sculpture (New Haven: Yale, 1982)
  5. ^ Pre-Raphaelite Sculpture (London: Lund Humphries, 1991)
  6. ^ Albert Memorial (New Haven: Yale, 2000)
  7. ^ The Houses of Parliament (London: Merrill, 2000)
  8. ^ The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires (Melbourne: National Gallery of Australia, 2004)
  9. ^ Benedict Read and Peyton Skipwith, Sculpture in Britain Between the Wars (London: Fine Art Society, 1986)

External links[edit]