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.

Picasso

In January 1921, another first was an exhibition of Picasso’s work from his Blue and Cubist periods (309). Clive Bell wrote in the catalogue’s Introduction, reprinted from The Athenaeum, that “Picasso is the paramount influence in Modern painting”. The gallery hoped that this show would be as successful as the Matisse exhibition but, despite drawing a large audience and considerable press coverage, there were few sales, perhaps, according to James Beechey and Chris Stephens in Picasso and Modern British Art, because the prices were considered too high. Press coverage was mixed: for example, Cecil Porter, in Six Decades at the Leicester Galleries London as Seen by the Press, states that, under the heading “Shell Shocked Art”, the Daily News declared: “the war has left the world rather topsy-turvy. Nature, the great restorer, will set most things right, but it will take her a long time to creep up on Cubism”.

The exhibition was comprehensive, with seventy-two paintings, etchings, and drypoints on display and there were some loans from private collections, including from that of Clive Bell. The catalogue is unillustrated, apart from a frontispiece portrait of the artist.