Ken Hughes. An artist’s life. But what legacy?

This little plaster sculpture of a female head belonged to my Grandma, Mary Cockett. She lived in a sewing box (the head not my Grandma…) for several years. Recently I rediscovered her.

She’s by an artist called Ken Hughes.


I also have a catalogue for a Ken Hughes exhibition at Browse & Darby, London, 1995. Possibly where my Grandma bought the sculpture. I hadn’t opened the catalogue until now.


Inside the catalogue was a folded photocopy.



On the other side was a hand written letter to my Grandma from the artist. He tells her that the head was based on Dance in Baden-Baden by Max Beckmann, 1923.

The original painting is at Museum Frieder Burda.

Ken Hughes taught at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham. References to him online are few. Luckily the catalogue has a lot of information. It lists a number of exhibitions including Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery (1969). It also lists work in Public Collections including, my museum, Birmingham City Art Gallery (now Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery).

One catalogue and object file search later I find the The Well Made Play, Wooden Construction, Sculpture, 1969, 1973P110. Here it is. In black and white. Because that was museum photography in the 1970s.


Here’s the press release saying it was funded by the Friends of Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and the rather fabulous sounding Provincial Galleries Sculpture Purchase Scheme (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation).



But somewhat sobering for artists. Ken Hughes appears to have had a successful long career. Yet he is little known now.


About rachelcockett

Art heritage museums weird stuff. Fundraiser and donor. Equity. Acting to level the playing field.
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6 Responses to Ken Hughes. An artist’s life. But what legacy?

  1. Isabella says:

    You might be interested to know that Ken Hughes is still alive and active, though close to 90- I’m researching the artists of Bath Academy as part of my work on the Bath Spa University collection & would love to see more of these artefacts.

    • Hi Isabella,
      that’s really nice to know.

      I was surprised how little was online about him. Your work should improve that. If you want to make arrangements to see the piece at Birmingham Museums you can contact the curatorial team via

      Feel free to use my images (with credit) if they are any use in your work.

      Best Wishes,

  2. Graham says:

    My Wife has Bust by Ken Hughes of Herself as a Child.
    Mrs Columbos Bust

  3. Andrew Sharp says:

    Ken Hughes did busts of my four children in 1993 for my wife’ 50th birthday.

  4. Tom Whiteley says:

    Hi Rachel/All

    Ken Hughes is my grandad. He is still alive and living in Bristol. He would be interested to see this article!


  5. Rose Kigwana says:

    Hi. Ken did a bust of me when I was about 18 I’m just about to turn 48! I have it on a long term loan from him. Its never been cast in bronze but I intend to do so one day. We have lost contact and I have no idea if he is still alive.

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