Archives & Library

The Leicester Galleries and its Exhibition Catalogues

The Leicester Galleries was a commercial art gallery that operated in central London between 1902 and 1977. It was particularly known for exhibiting British and French artists’ work and for promoting the work of leading modernist painters and sculptors. The Centre’s Library holds one-third of the gallery’s entire output of 1,400 exhibition catalogues, donated by Peter and Renate Nahum in January 2020. The collection is fully catalogued and available for research. This spotlight feature highlights some of the key artists and themes promoted by the gallery and illustrates some of the catalogues in the Library’s holdings.

Cézanne

In 1925, the gallery had another success with the first solo exhibition in Britain of Paul Cézanne’s works (395). Despite being championed by Roger Fry and Clive Bell and being popular in Europe, his work had not been bought by many English collectors or museums, and it was difficult to gather work together for the exhibition. However, loans were secured from Gwendoline and Margaret Davies and Samuel Courtauld among others and the resulting exhibition consisted of thirty-one drawings, watercolours, and paintings. It was extensively and very positively reviewed in the press, the galleries were packed and Porter states that newspapers noted that pictures that sold for 800 francs in 1906 had already become worth between £5,000 and £15,000. He also states that the view of Cézanne had changed to the extent that “the ‘Daily Chronicle’ noted that whereas 14 years before Cézanne’s pictures had been ‘greeted as outrageous and dismal jokes’, they were now ‘classical art’”.

The exhibition was accompanied by a twenty-page catalogue with a Prefatory Note by Robert Rattray Tatlock, editor of The Burlington Magazine; an essay and biography of the artist; a portrait frontispiece, illustrations, and plates.