Within its Art Collections, the University holds an extensive and varied range of approximately 1,000 artworks. At the heart of the collection are works by former students, professors, and celebrated 20th century figures including Max Weber, Minnie Jane Hardman, and Leon Kossoff. Other significant collections, such as the Betts Collection and Archive, incorporate drawings by master artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Walter Sickert.

The University’s Lettering, Printing and Graphic Design Collections contain several internationally important collections of materials relating to visual culture. This includes the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection, the Banks and Miles Graphic Design Archives, and the Hans Schmoller Collection.

Within the Special Collections, major holdings include artwork for various publishers, most notably Ladybird Books, artworks and artists’ books relating to Samuel Beckett, and significant printing and ephemera collections. An outstanding collection of vintage prints is that of Alvin Langdon Coburn, a pioneer of abstract photography.

The Museum of English Rural Life’s collections contain paintings, prints and watercolours, plus huge numbers of photographic images of the English countryside. The spectacular Festival of Britain wall hangings by Michael O’Connell were recently conserved and displayed.


The University has a rich artistic heritage that spans more than 150 years, having begun life as a School of Art in the town (learn more about its history here). Reading was the first School of Art in the UK to offer a master’s degree in Fine Arts, first established in 1968.

Today the University produces subject-leading research and teaching related to visual culture from both fine art and graphic design perspectives.

Reading also has a unique place in the history of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot having produced the first book in the world to be illustrated with photographs in the town between 1844 and 1846.

Public involvement is vital to our programmes: examples include the Arts and Culture blog, Reading International and the Art on Campus trail.


MERL Paintings

The collection of livestock portraiture at The MERL consists of both paintings and prints. Livestock portraiture depicting prize animals – cattle, oxen, pigs and sheep – began to appear in the mid-eighteenth century. We derive much historical value from these commissioned paintings through their collective recording of the process of English livestock improvement.

Minnie Jane Hardman

Minnie Jane Hardman (née Shubrook) (1862-1952) was a student at the Royal Academy Schools in 1883-1889. The breadth and unrivalled coverage of the Minnie Jane Hardman Collection at the University of Reading provides a unique and in-depth insight into the education and practice of a female artist during this period. Works include sketches after the antique, anatomical and life drawings, and studies and examination papers in perspective.

Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection

The Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection is the most comprehensive archive of the work of the Isotype movement. It documents methods of designing and disseminating data that have played a major role in twentieth-century graphic design thinking.