The history of the Bishop Otter Art Collection at the University of Chichester is the history of a vision held by two remarkable women: Sheila McCririck (1916-2001) and K.M. Elisabeth ‘Betty’ Murray (1909-98).
In this the centenary year of the birth of Sheila McCririck, Head of Art at Bishop Otter College from 1949-77, it is fitting to celebrate her role and foresight in the creation of a unique collection of twentieth century British art. Her selection of both figurative and abstract work purchased at the time often from little known artists (when funds were at best limited or at the start non existent) with the support and tenacity of Betty Murray, Principal of Bishop Otter College (1948-70) frequently in the face of fierce opposition from staff and Governors was ground-breaking. . By 1955 students, staff and visitors to the College could see work by Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Alan Reynolds, Christopher Wood, Graham Sutherland, William Scott, Willi Soukop (his sculpture Mother and Child [in the University’s Chapel] being the first to enter the Collection in 1952) - and others which were hung around the College simply where they looked right. Both women believed in the civilising influence of art and in the educative value of its challenge and to achieve this the works had to be on open display in accessible places. They were unconcerned about spiralling value and irritated by the constraints of insurance and security, which were imposed. Reward came, not in the increased financial value, but when past students began their own original collections or started them in their schools.