The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum brings the remarkable Radev Collection to Cheltenham this spring.

The exhibition of world-class painting tells the story of 20th century art and modern love through the collection of post-war Bulgarian migrant Mattei Radev.

Eardley Knollys and Eddy Sackville West courtesy of Norman Coates, Roderic O’Conor, Pont Aven, 1892

From left to right: Eardley Knollys and Eddy Sackville-West Courtesy of Norman Coates, Roderic O’Conor, Pont Aven, 1892 © Radev Collection 2023

The exhibition opens on Friday 8 March and runs until 1 September. It is free to visit but visitors will be invited to make a donation, or to become a member of The Cheltenham Trust, the charity that manages the art gallery and museum.

Seventy-nine pieces from the collection will be on display, featuring work by iconic artists including Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani. The collection, and its history, tell stories of friendship, love and creativity amongst some of Britain’s greatest artists and collectors.

The Radev Collection will be shown alongside pieces from the Wilson Collection, and new work by artist and columnist Luke Edward Hall, which is inspired by the Radev Collection and the Bloomsbury group.

Mattei’s remarkable story has also been reinterpreted by best-selling children’s author Robert Tregoning in a new story commissioned for the exhibition.  This bookwork is being hand-made for the exhibition by local illustrators, Jodie Dean and Dylan Wyeth. The book will be available for families and visitors to the exhibition to read and to enjoy the exhibition activities.

Lisa Edgar, head of culture at The Cheltenham Trust, said: “The Wilson is excited to present a remarkable story of survival, love and kindness set against a backdrop of the British art world generating this extraordinary collection of 20th Century Art.

We’re also proud to be collaborating with artist Luke Edward-Hall, best-selling children’s author Robert Tregoning, and our partners at Charleston to bring this story to life.”

Cheltenham Borough Councillor Julian Tooke was a friend of Mattei. He had seen the pictures on the walls of Mattei’s house in London and suggested that the Radev collection was shown at The Wilson.

He said: “I was introduced to Mattei when I was doing an MA dissertation on EM Forster in 1990 because of his connection to the writer. Mattei became my friend.  I am delighted that 34 years later I have helped in bringing his art collection to Cheltenham. It’s a celebration of his remarkable life.”

The exhibition is open until September and The Wilson is hosting additional Radev events and activities during its run, beginning with a curator led tour on Saturday 13 April at 11am.

Mattei Radev fled Bulgaria in 1950, in fear of persecution. After a perilous journey, Mattei settled in London where he made a group of supportive friends who helped him find a career as a picture framer. Working with some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, he became associated with the celebrated Bloomsbury Group. A group of writers, artists, and philosophers, the Bloomsbury Group sought to challenge boundaries within art, design, and relationships.

What is now known as The Radev Collection was handed down through chosen family, started by writer Eddy Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville. On his death in 1965, it was left to friend and former lover, the art dealer Eardley Knollys. Knollys grew the collection and, in turn, left it to Radev in 1991.

This exhibition will explore the stories of the three collectors. It will also delve into the incredible interiors and radical experiments in living in the homes where parts of the collection were made or displayed, including Knole in Kent and Charleston House in Lewes.

The Radev Collection represents a remarkable time in queer history and the history of British art and is one of the most exciting collections of modernist painting still in private hands. Selected works from the collection were exhibited publicly in 2011 following Mattei’s death, but this will be the largest exhibition of The Radev Collection in its history.

Please contact Juli Krolo [email protected] 07854363900 for further information regarding the press preview events and the exhibition.

To find out more about the exhibition, please visit


The Wilson - Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum
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The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum has an outstanding museum and art gallery with a programme of exciting temporary exhibitions and permanent galleries.



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