In the 1920s John Hilditch (1872-1930) was the most esteemed collector of Chinese art in the world. At least that was what he claimed. Born into a working-class family in the North West, Hilditch rose up the social ladder and amassed an extensive Chinese art collection. For over fifteen years he was embroiled in a highly public dispute with experts at Manchester City Art Gallery and the British and Victoria and Albert Museums over the authenticity and value of his collection. This talk focuses on Hilditch’s posturing as an elite collector to explore how ‘ordinary’ Britons conceptualized and experienced art collecting, and examine how far the democratisation of collecting disrupted orthodox social and cultural hierarchies.
Dr Lewis Ryder is a social and cultural historian of Modern Britain with expertise in the history of collecting, the politics of cultural life and selfhood. Lewis currently teaches on the undergraduate History programme at the University of Manchester. His PhD, completed in November 2020, examined the contest for cultural authority in early twentieth-century Britain through the case study of Chinese art collector John Hilditch.