United Kingdom

University of Birmingham

B15 2TS
Phone: +44 (0) 121 414 7333
Fax: + 44 (0) 121 414 3370

Barber Institute Of Fine Arts

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts owes its existence to the vision of Dame Martha Constance Hattie Barber (1869–1932) – pictured (right) in a portrait by James Jebusa Shannon [1912]. She was the daughter of a wealthy Worcestershire businessman, Simon Onions, who, after an education at Cheltenham Ladies College married the Birmingham solicitor and property developer, William Henry Barber (always known by his second name). Henry proved a highly successful developer, making his fortune in the expanding suburbs of Birmingham and by his mid thirties the couple were able to retire to Culham Court, an 18th-century estate in Oxfordshire. However, the couple maintained a close contact with Birmingham, Henry was an original subscriber to the endowment fund set up by Joseph Chamberlain to establish the University of Birmingham, and he went on to endow chairs of Law and Jurisprudence, eventually becoming a Life Governor. In 1924 Henry received a Baronetcy “for political services to Birmingham" and he died three years later.

Before his death the couple had discussed establishing a permanent contribution to Henry's home city, and Lady Barber ensured that this idea came to fruition, founding the Barber Institute in 1932. She died, childless, four months later, leaving the entire Barber fortune to the Trustees of the new Institute to enable the construction of a new building, the development of the art collection and the funding of public concerts.

 Permanent Collection Highlights (2)

 Click on the images to enlarge

Permanent Collection

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts contains one of the finest small collections of European art in the UK. Featuring works from the 13th to the 20th century, it is a near-perfect gathering of some of the most influential artists of the previous millennium. Its particular strengths lie in its Old Master and Impressionist collections.

The collection is made up of paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture. Over recent years, the Institute has built up an excellent 20th-century collection of works on paper.

Amongs the artists represented are Bellini, Botticelli, Holbein, Veronese, Stom, Baschenis, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Poussin, Gainsborough, Turner, Delacroix, Ingres, Rossetti, Whistler, Manet, Degas, Monet, van Gogh, Rodin, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Magritte, and Schiele.

The Barber Institute also houses a rare collection of coins, seals and weights, chiefly from Rome, Byzantium and the Middle East.


Alongside our world-renowned collection, the Barber Institute has a changing programme of temporary exhibitions putting individual works of art into context with borrowed works. We also have changing displays from the Institute's print and drawing collection, including a growing collection of 20th-century works.

The Education Gallery contains small exhibitions by contemporary artists, local school groups, and of seldom-seen works from the collection.

From 15 February 2007 · Coin Gallery
Travel and Money in the Byzantine World 1 February 2007 – 17 January 2008

The Currency of Femininity:
Women on Coins
2 February – 6 May 2007
Flight of Fancy:
Birds and Winged Creatures in Art

2 February – 6 May 2007
Flight of Fancy:
Birds and Winged Creatures in Art


Admission Free

Opening hours

Monday - Saturday: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm
Sunday: 12 noon - 5.00 pm

Closed: Good Friday, 24-26 December and New Year's Day

Getting there

The Barber Institute is just 3 miles from the centre of Birmingham and is easily accessible by Car, Bus and Train.

By Car:

Take the A38 (Bristol Road), turning onto Edgbaston Park Road. Parking is available in the University's South Car Park, with the Institute situated at the top of the hill opposite King Edward's School, two minutes walk from the car park.

By Bus:

Nos 61, 62 and 63 leave the city centre (Corporation Street or Navigation St). The bus stops at the bottom of Navigation Street (ask for the University).

By Train:

University Station is a five minute walk from the Institute on the campus. Trains leave New Street station regularly and take approximately 10 minutes.


Access to the Barber Institute for disabled visitors remains unchanged. Please enter the Edgbaston campus via the University’s East Gate, as normal. A dedicated parking bay is available at the front of the building outside the entrance, and level access for wheelchair-users is available at the rear entrance. Please telephone ahead on 0121 414 7333 if you wish to use this facility.

Museum internal and external photos (2)

Click on the images to enlarge


The Barber Institute of Fine Arts has a thriving education programme that caters for children, young people, and adults. It includes Public Lectures, Adult Workshops, Holiday Workshops for Children, Art Alive! and other special events throughout the year.


All visits by groups of students should be booked in advance with the Education Officer. To avoid disappointment, workshops should be booked at least two terms in advance for primary schools and half a term in advance for secondary schools.
Coaches and minibuses can deposit groups outside the main entrance to the Institute. Parking is then available in the University's South Car Park on Edgbaston Park Road.
The Education Room contains a cloakroom where bags and coats can be left, packed lunches can also be eaten here.
Supervision should be one adult to every eight pupils for Keys Stages 1 & 2, and 1 adult to every twelve for Key Stages 3 & 4. N.B. Gallery staff cannot be counted as supervisory adults.
Breaks are timetabled into all events and activities, as is time for lunch if necessary.
Gallery Shop. There is a small gift shop at the Barber Insititute which pupils are welcome to visit. Because of its size we ask that only 10 children visit it at a time.
General Rules. Due to the nature of the exhibitions we ask teachers to ensure that pupils do not touch the works of art and keep a reasonable distance at all times. We also ask you to be aware that the galleries are open to the general public, so where possible please ensure that the children know not to run, or be excessively noisy in the public areas.
For further information, please contact the Education Department on +44 (0) 121 414 7335. E-mail:


School Visits

The Barber Institute has a dedicated education department to provide workshops, talks, tours and study days for pupils of all ages during term time.

Visiting groups will use the galleries and the dedicated Education Room, with all materials supplied. All school services are free (unless stated otherwise).



Available Monday - Friday 10.00 am - 12 noon

For pupils at Key Stage 1, 2 & 3

Recommended maximum group size: 30 (materials provided).

Using five or six works as inspiration, the Education Officer will introduce the pupils to a chosen theme in the galleries. Using storytelling and roleplay, pupils will be encouraged to form their own responses to art works and will develop analytical skills. Discussions are backed up by practical activities, which may include drawing and/or modelling.

Workshops available include Landscapes, Sculpture, Portraiture, Still-Life, and Stories in Art, but where possible, we will work to deliver a specially tailored workshop to a theme of your choice.

For older age groups, sessions can be tailor-made and can include a combination of discussion and practical activity. Further information and suggested topics are available from the Education Officer.


Drawing from Art and Life

Tuesdays 15 May, 12 June, 26 June, 3 July · 2 – 5 pm

Book early for these popular adult workshops, which use paintings from the Barber’s permanent collection to inspire poses for life-drawing. Terry Mullett leads these classes, which are open to participants of all abilities.

Venue hire

Corporate Hire, Conferences and Receptions

Make an Impression

Hold your function in the company of great Old Masters and famous Impressionists in the 1930s elegance of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

The Barber Institute is Birmingham’s finest Art Deco building, and houses an internationally important collection of art including major works by Monet, Manet and Magritte; Renoir, Rubens, Rossetti and Rodin; Delacroix and Degas â€