Edward Morris obituary

Other lives: Art historian, curator and founder editor of the acclaimed Public Sculpture of Britain series

There was always something boyish about my friend and colleague, the art historian and curator Edward Morris, who has died aged 75 – an element of the Peter Pan, never old and never young. He was rather gawky, and there was a physical discomfort about him, as though he did not quite fit himself.

He was long on dense emails and short on conversation, his profound shyness and self-effacing modesty masking a deep well of determination and commitment and a fount of kindness. These elements were undoubtedly crucial to what would become his greatest contribution to his field, as founder editor of the Public Sculpture of Britain series, a collaboration between the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association and Liverpool University Press.

Born in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, he was the son of Edward Morris, a naval officer, and his wife Winifred. After Rugby school, Peterhouse, Cambridge, and a spell in the City, he took a further degree at the Courtauld Institute. Married to Penny (nee Faulkner) and with two small boys, Simon and Hugh, he made Merseyside the centre of his professional and family life. As curator of fine art at the National Museums and Art Galleries on Merseyside from 1966 to 1999, Edward undertook the display, cataloguing and publishing of the paintings and sculpture in the Walker Art Gallery, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery. His radical redisplay of the sculpture at the Walker, opened in 1988, won a National Art Collections Fund award, and his book French Art in Nineteenth Century Britain (2005) explored a rich regional by-product of industry and commerce.

Edward was the right man in the right place at the right time for the Public Sculpture of Britain. As chair of its editorial board, he ensured the survival of the series through a number of vicissitudes. To achieve this Edward had to have an exactitude for detail for which, as a contributor, I could only be grateful. He had to cope with an eccentric amateur society, a hard-pushed university press, innumerable ad hoc organisations and individual authors and, above all, funding. The 17 volumes to date form the bedrock of the exciting Art UK online Your Sculpture project.

He is survived by Penny, their sons, Simon and Hugh, and twin granddaughters.

Katharine Eustace

The GuardianTramp

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