Historian of modern art and art critic. Read was the eldest of three sons born to a Yorkshire, England, farmer. Orphaned early, he was sent to Crossley's School, Halifax. At age 16 he worked as a bank clerk, studying in the evenings for entrance to Leeds University. He entered Leeds in 1912 where he initially studied economics and law. At Leeds he came in contact with the modern art collection of its president, Michael Sadler. After graduation, he served in the army in World War I (1915-1918) with distinction, rising to the rank of captain and engaging in battles in Belgium and France.