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.

The gallery did not put on many exhibitions of sculptors’ work in the early period of its history, and those that were exhibited were establishment figures and Royal Academicians in group shows, such as Frederic Leighton, Hamo Thornycroft, and Alfred Gilbert. An early solo exhibition of sculpture was the exhibition of the work of the American sculptor Jo Davidson (203), unusual for the fact that its catalogue had an illustrated cover.

Throughout this period, and up until the 1930s, the gallery did however advertise bronze statuettes for sale in its catalogues and, according to Evelyn Silber, it sold over 200 statuettes between 1905 and 1918. For example, between 1908 and 1910, thirty bronze casts of Frederic Leighton’s An Athlete Struggling with a Python were sold.

The First World War and the gallery’s involvement with the war artists led to an interest in modernist painting and sculpture that continued right through into the 1950s. The younger sculptors included Jacob Epstein, Frank Dobson, Dora Gordine, and Henry Moore, some of whom enjoyed a long, fruitful and, in some cases, exclusive relationship with the Leicester Galleries. Established French sculptors such as Auguste Rodin were also exhibited.