Richard Perry Bedford (1883-1967)

Cyclops, Marble, 7 x 16 x 5 ¼ in

[CAS S1] Acquired c.1967


NOTE: The whereabouts of this sculpture are currently unknown. If you have any information, please, contact Colchester Art Society at


Richard Perry Bedford was born on the 15th of November 1883, the second son of four children of George Bedford (d.1920), Headmaster of Torquay & Newton Schools of Art, and his wife, Maria, née Harris. Richard was educated at Dean Close School, Cheltenham and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, a school established in response to the Arts and Craft Movement sponsored by William Morris and John Ruskin. In 1903, at the age of 19, Bedford joined the staff at the V&A as a technical assistant. He was appointed Keeper of Sculpture there in 1924, a post he held until 1938. From 1938 to 1946 he was Keeper of the Department of Circulation (1) still at the V&A, and finally was appointed Curator of Pictures at the Ministry of Works in 1947, a post he held for a year. On retirement in 1948, he came to live with his first wife, Pearl, in West Mersea, Essex (2), where he continued to work on sculptures. After Pearl died, he married Miss “Benjie” Coleman of West Mersea in the spring of 1967. He died a few months later on the 3rd of October 1967. Richard Bedford came to sculpture relatively late.


Bedford was active between 1924 and 1953, but it is not until 1927, at the age of 44, that he properly developed as a sculptor, showing a great understanding of the qualities of materials, both in the forms and the textures. In 1925 he had been to the British School in Rome where he had met Barbara Hepworth (3). This was to be a determining encounter. Many of his sculptures are often described as polychrome as they tend to combine various coloured stones and take advantage of their veining and marking as is the case here. Bedford was an active member of the London Group (4) from 1936 to 1938 and a member of the Seven and Five Society (5) in 1932-1933, when the group was in a transition period, being taken over by modernist artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and John Piper. Not only a sculptor and a draughtsman, Bedford was also a writer, contributing to many articles and reviews in publications such as the Dictionary of National Biography, the Encyclopedia Britannia, the Burlington Magazine, the Connoisseur among others. He was also British correspondent for the Kunstkronik in Berlin. Later, while in West Mersea, Bedford became involved with Colchester Art Society, of which he became a committee member. For many years the Minories Art Gallery in Colchester had an annual exhibition of three weeks allocated to the work of Colchester Art Society members and Bedford’s was often accepted. He was a great friend of Henry Moore, John Nash (q.v.) and Cedric Morris (q.v.), as well as Lucien Freud, who  was also part of this group. There is a series of pencil and wash drawings in the Victor Batte Lay Foundation collection (see link below), dated 1937, which are probably preparatory drawings for sculptures, although none of them relates to Cyclops.

Bedford’s first show was at the Goupil Gallery, London, in 1927. He then went on to exhibit at Alex Reid (6) and Lefevre Gallery in London, and later at various venues, including at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions (see list below).

Selected Exhibitions

1927 The Goupil Gallery, London

1931-1939 The London Group Exhibition

1938 The British Empire Exhibition, Glasgow, Scotland

1939 The Lefevre Gallery, London, solo exhibition

1942 Manchester City Art Gallery, New Movements in Art

1942-1953 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London

1948 Open Air Sculpture Exhibition, Battersea Park, London

The Minories, Colchester,The World of Richard Bedford,(including a photograph of “the artist at work”), 1968; Twenty-Four Essex and Suffolk Artists, 1900-1978, No 13 (ill.), 1979

Also exhibited at the New Burlington Galleries, London and the Leicester Beaux Arts Gallery

Selected Works

1936 The Horned Lizard­ (West Mersea Museum)

1938 Black Tulip and Dragon

1941 Fish


BEDFORD, Richard, St James the Less: A study of Christian Iconography, Gryphon Club, London, 1911

BUCKMAN, David, Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol, 1998, p. 128

CHASE, Michael, The World of Richard Bedford, The Minories Exhibition Catalogue, 1968

THE TIMES, Obituary, 5 October 1967

WILCOX, Denys J., The London Group 1913-1939: the Artists and their Works, Scholar Press, Aldershot, 1995

The Victor Batte-Lay Foundation

Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII

(1) The V&A Circulation Department was responsible for sending travelling exhibitions to art schools around the country after the Second World War. Works, all of small scale, by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, drawings by Modigliani and etchings by Giacometti thus travelled around England in an effort to engage students.

(2) They lived at “Daisy Bank”, Firs Chase.

(3)] It was he who sparked off her career by introducing her to the collector George Eumorfopoulos who bought two of her works.

(4) The London Group was set up in 1913 by 32 artists including Lucien Pissarro aiming at creating a counter-balance to institutions such as the Royal Academy.

(5) The Seven and Five Group (the membership was to be restricted to seven painters and five sculptors) was formed in 1919 as a British manifestation of the return to order after the First World War. Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and John Piper joined the group, which they soon renamed the Seven and Five Abstract Group. 

(6) Alex Reid (1854-1928) was a Glasgow art dealer and friend of Whistler and Van Gogh and one of the most influential dealers of the beginning of the 20th century.