A major collection of paintings by Hertfordshire County Council will be offered for sale to the public at Cheffins on the 21st March. The council is selling 428 paintings from its 1,828-strong art collection and those on offer feature works from some of the most renowned British artists of the 20th century.

The County Council’s compilation was started in 1949 as part of the School Loan Collection, a post-war initiative by Sir John Newsom, the Hertfordshire Chief Education Officer at the time. The initiative involved obtaining artworks from contemporary British artists for schools to borrow from the council, therefore improving the educational experience of schoolchildren in Hertfordshire schools by exposure to real, contemporary art. Many of the pieces were purchased from reputable dealers, artists and the ‘Pictures for Schools’ exhibitions which took place from the 1950s and 1960s.

The selection on offer at Cheffins features works from some of the most renowned British artists of the 20th century; from the surrealist John Tunnard to the vorticist artist, Edward Wadsworth. Also included in the collection is a picture from one of the greatest woman artists of the period, Barbara Hepworth, and other prominent painters such as Carel Weight, Julian Trevelyan, Michael Ayrton, Keith Vaughan and John Minton.

The highlight of the collection is a pastel work by much-loved Scottish artist, Joan Eardley, which has an estimate of £12,000 - £18,000. Over a career barely spanning fifteen years, Eardley produced some of the most iconic images of the Glasgow slums and the rugged Scottish coastline near Catterline. Despite the outwardly contrasting nature of Eardley's most popular subjects, each had much in common. Both were small, poor, close-knit communities, where a sense of social cohesion was outwardly evident.

Also from Scotland is a picture called ‘Blue Plate’ by Edinburgh School artist, Anne Redpath, which has an estimate of £10,000 - £15,000 and a still life by Robert MacBryde, which has an estimate of £7,000 - £10,000. A surrealist picture from John Tunnard which is titled ‘Brandis 1944’ is estimated to make £10,000 - £15,000. Closer to home, are a series of pictures by artists from the renowned Great Bardfield circle, based in Essex, including Kenneth Rowntree, Michael Rothenstein and George Chapman.

Many works included in the sale demonstrate the close relationship twentieth-century artists had with their natural surroundings, onto which they projected the realities of a rapidly changing social landscape. Not only do these works represent key stylistic movements in the history of British avant-garde, but also highlight changing collecting practices and educational reforms in post-war Britain.

The Curated Eye presents an opportunity to both appreciate and be proud of the important role these artworks played in a period of great opportunity, hope and educational reform following the end of World War II.

‘The Curated Eye’ sale takes place on Thursday 21st March from 11am at Cheffins, Clifton House, Clifton Road, Cambridge, CB1 7EA.