The Radev Collection

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Portrait of Chaim Soutine by Amedeo Modigliani (1917), in the Radev Collection

The Radev Collection, kept in a private dwelling in central London,[1] contains art works by British and other artists including Duncan Grant, Alfred Wallis, Ivon Hitchens, Ben Nicholson and Lucien Pissarro.[2] It is named after Mattei Radev, a Bulgarian who emigrated to Britain in the 1950s.


Radev was associated with the artistic Bloomsbury circle and worked as a picture framer for art galleries in London.[3] The collection, some of which originated with music critic Edward Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville, was inherited by Eardley Knollys in 1965 and later by Radev.[2]

Knollys owned the Storran Gallery at 5 Albany Court Yard, London W1, for 8 years until 1944, after his partner Frank Coombs had been killed in the war, and Knollys decided that the gallery should close. It had put on major shows of Modigliani, Soutine, and exhibited important works by Picasso, selling to major museums.

Few pictures acquired during this period are in the Radev Collection today, but a dual-logbook survives which catalogues the diverse range of acquisitions and sales of artworks until well into the 1970s and shows how Knollys remained committed to the gallery system, although he knew many of the artists and might have bought from them direct. Other works by Vuillard, Pissarro, Delacroix, Sickert, Pasmore, Degas, Courbet, Le Sidaner and Bonnard are shown entering and leaving the collection for sums that now seem astonishingly low.

The most expensive purchase was one of two works by Henri Matisse, Le leçon de violon, in pastel, dating from 1925 and costing £4073 in 1958, which was sold on at auction by Sotheby’s in 1960 for £4655. Whereas a Braque lithograph of fish cost only £3 at that same time. The most important works were not retained long term.

The collection was bolstered by the sudden death of Eddy Sackville-West in 1965. Under the terms of his Will, Sackville-West left his paintings to Knollys in friendship. At weekends, they had shared Crichel House in the Dorset village of Long Crichel since 1945, together with the critics Raymond Mortimer and Desmond Shawe-Taylor, effectively forming a male salon. (Knollys was also Sackville-West’s literary executor). Afterwards Knollys moved to a new weekend retreat in Hampshire, which he shared with Mattei Radev.[4]

When Knollys died in 1991, Radev sold their country home, and the paintings transferred to a tall London house, densely covering its interior walls in contrast to the growing taste for minimalism. Radev chose to keep the collection together, having sold – encouraged by Knollys – only one picture: Modigliani’s Portrait de Lagar, 1915, which made an apparently substantial sum at auction in London, but soon re-appeared in New York and fetched vastly more. Radev resolved not to sell a painting again.

Radev himself died in 2009. The collection was made available online in 2011 and selected paintings were put on temporary display in London and other locations in England between 2011 and 2013.[5][6]


  1. ^ "Loves and lives of the men who built the Radev Collection". Fitzrovia News. 14 June 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "The Radev Collection: Bloomsbury & Beyond". Abbot Hall Art Gallery. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  3. ^ Brown, Mark; correspondent, arts (18 September 2011). "Radev collection: tale of three art lovers to be told in new touring exhibition". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ Obituary, The Times
  5. ^ "The Radev Collection at Pallant House Gallery tells remarkable tale of three art lovers". Culture24. 
  6. ^ Wullschlager, Jackie (18 August 2013). "The Radev Collection, Redfern Gallery, London – review". Financial Times. 

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