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.

Gauguin

The gallery followed up the Van Gogh exhibition with one showcasing more than seventy works by Paul Gauguin (376). This was assembled from various sources, including some items from the gallery’s own stock and loans from artists and other collectors of Gauguin’s work. This was the artist’s first British solo show. It was broad ranging, covering all periods of the artist’s career. Oliver Brown said that it

contained lithographs of Martinique and Brittany, wood-engravings of Tahitian subjects, etchings, pastels and water-colours as well as early Breton painting … a coconut Gauguin carved and painted at Tahiti, and one of his ceramics, a pitcher decorated with figures of Breton women, 1889. Between seventy and eighty exhibits displayed his great variety and included some of his most famous works.

There was a huge amount of press coverage and a steady flow of visitors. In August 1924, The Burlington Magazine wrote that the exhibition was “one of the most intelligently organized of recent years. Great trouble has been taken to make it representative and comprehensive”.

This catalogue followed the style and pattern of the Van Gogh catalogue with a self-portrait frontispiece. At thirty-five pages, it is a larger than the average catalogue of the period, with a biographical note by Archibald Standish Hartrick, who knew the artist, as well as a detailed text, illustrations, and a bibliography.