Dr Jeffrey Sherwin, GP and art collector

Dr Jeffrey Sherwin with a Henry Moore piece
Dr Jeffrey Sherwin with a Henry Moore piece
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Dr Jeffrey Sherwin, who has died at 82, was a GP who became instrumental in creating the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and who assembled a renowned collection of British surrealist art which he placed on show around the world.

Dr Jeffrey Sherwin, who has died at 82, was a GP who became instrumental in creating the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds and who assembled a renowned collection of British surrealist art which he placed on show around the world.

A vocal advocate for the arts in Yorkshire, he was also a tireless campaigner for the regions to win greater recognition and resources from central Government.

Dr Sherwin was educated at Leeds Grammar, Leeds University and Balliol College, Oxford. He was a general practitioner in Harehills, for 40 years, and an active figure in civil life. An honorary Alderman and Leeds city councillor for nine years, became chairman of Leeds Leisure Services, securing the building of three sports centres in the district.

It was in 1977 that he met the Castleford-born sculptor, Henry Moore, and learned that despite his world renown and having studied in Leeds, he had never been invited back to the city.

A fruitful relationship ensued, and Dr Sherwin conceived the idea of creating a separate sculpture gallery at the front of the old Leeds City Art Gallery, fighting to secure the £150,000 funding needed to make the Henry Moore Institute a reality.

Dr Sherwin regularly visited the sculptor at his Hertfordshire home and studio, recalling how on one occasion the artist, upon receiving a phone call from the Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall asked her to call back because “I’m with my friends from Yorkshire.”

The son of a Jewish GP father, Jeffrey had inherited his interest in art from his mother Rachey, an amateur ceramicist. He began collecting paintings whilst a student in Oxford.

An event at Leeds City Art Gallery to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition opened his eyes to British Surrealism, and he began to acquire works at auctions and directly from living artists.

His collection of 220 paintings, sketches and sculptures from artists including Eileen Agar and Roland Penrose was the subject of a major exhibition, British Surrealism in Context: The Collector’s Eye, at Leeds City Art Gallery in 2009.

It became the largest collection of British surrealist art assembled through amateur enthusiasm rather than for financial gain, and works from it have been sent on loan to the Tate in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as galleries in France, Spain and Germany.

Dr Sherwin published a book, British Surrealism Opened Up, which delved into his friendships with Moore and another Leeds-educated artist, Damien Hirst.

An executive chairman of the Yorkshire Arts Association and founder executive member of the Leeds Civic Trust, he continued to push the case that London was sucking funds for the arts that should be spread more equitably to the regions.

In retirement, he used the modest finances from the sale of the health centre he had set up to begin collecting more systematically, and when asked about his passion, said: “I’m just an ordinary bloke buying pictures I could afford.”

He is survived by his wife Ruth, whom he married in 1968. They have two sons, Jonathan and Adam.