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.

Henry Moore

From 1931 to the mid-1950s, the Leicester was Henry Moore’s principal British gallery, hosting eight solo shows between 1931 and 1955. The Library has the catalogues of five of these exhibitions, those of 1931, 1946, 1951, 1954, and 1955. The catalogue of the first exhibition in 1931 (511) had a Preface by Jacob Epstein, who was one of Moore’s early supporters. The exhibition was successful despite its very mixed reviews in the press. There were some sales, as the prices were low.

Moore’s reputation and sales of his work grew steadily in the 1930s but, according to Evelyn Silber, after the Second World War sales quadrupled in volume.

The year 1951 was important for Henry Moore, with his work appearing at the Festival of Britain and the Sculpture Exhibition in Battersea Park. The 1951 exhibition of new bronzes and drawings held at the gallery (962) showed seventeen items of sculpture and nearly forty drawings. They included Reclining Figure—bronze (1950), a study for a major work commissioned for the Festival, and Helmet, I (Maquette)—lead (1950). The exhibition was “almost a sell-out” according to Porter.

The fifteen-page catalogue is illustrated and contains a biographical note on the artist. Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation, (Bib. Number 0008134).