barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


The life and passions of Lady Barber


Who was Dame Martha Constance Hattie Barber? And what inspired her generous bequest to the University of Birmingham?

Find out in this exhibition focusing on Lady Barber’s life, that of her husband, Sir Henry, their house at Culham Court and its remarkable gardens and collections. A significant part of these have passed to the Barber, including the extraordinary group of portraits of Lady Barber by her favoured artist, Nestor Cambier, a selection of which will form the central element of the show. Also included will be some outstanding but rarely seen textiles from Culham Court, and some of the finest pieces from Lady Barber’s fascinating collection of lace. These works of art will be complemented by archive photos and documents that provide insights into the lives and interests of the Barbers. A final section will explore their connections with the University of Birmingham, culminating in Lady Barber’s magnificent gift.

Also launched with the exhibition will be an anniversary publication, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts: Foundations of a Collection (Scala Publications), which will include chapters on the Barbers, on the University’s response to the gift, on music at the Barber in its early years, and on Thomas Bodkin, the first director and the acquisitions he made for the gallery.

There will also be a gallery talk on Tuesday 18 December at 1.15pm for those interested in hearing a more in-depth background of the painting.


To read art critic Michael Glover’s recent review of ‘Portrait of a Lady: The Life and Passions of Lady Barber’ in the Independent, click here



Thursday 15 September 11am - 12.30pm

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Lightning Talks

Wednesday 2 December, 2 – 4pm.

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The Collection

Here you can view highlights from the Barber Institute's collection of paintings.

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- Michael Glover, The Independent

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