Until his death in 2002, Dr David Brown was a familiar sight at exhibition previews, often wearing a crash helmet, writes Andrew Mead. A vet who went on to become a key figure at the Tate, and a keen scooterrider, Brown was an obsessive collector of 20th-century art. He left many of his purchases to Southampton City Art Gallery - whose own permanent collection he had, in an advisory role, helped to form - and a large selection of them is now on show there.
As too are some photographs of the works formerly in situ in Brown's Clapham house. If the crash helmet suggests a certain eccentricity, these photos certainly confirm it: every surface in the kitchen overflowing with books, cardboard boxes heaped on all the floors, an abandoned vacuum cleaner - the whole place crammed.
What Brown bought was diverse. There are unfamiliar names from the early 20th century, figure studies, landscapes, the language-based works of Ian Hamilton Finlay. Most obviously 'architectural' are some paintings and a wall-hung relief (right) by the Constructive artist Anthony Hill, the relief looking especially fresh and pertinent in its careful manipulation of materials (aluminium, copper, perspex) and planes. Hill's works are the perfect foil to the highlight of Brown's collection: semi-abstract gestural paintings by St Ives artist Roger Hilton, with white, black, red and ochre predominant.
Thanks in part to Brown, Southampton amassed one of the strongest public 20th-century art collections outside London. It is now all the richer for his generous bequest.