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.

Victorian art

Victorian artists who were exhibited included figures such as Edwin Sandys (16), Edward Burne-Jones (20), and Ford Madox Brown (110).

The earliest catalogue in the Library’s collection is an important loan exhibition of the work of William Holman Hunt (64) held in 1906. The last surviving member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he took a keen interest in organising the exhibition and even turned up to view it on a regular basis. According to Oliver Brown, in Exhibition: The Memoirs of Oliver Brown, the show attracted substantial crowds:

School masters and women teachers brought their classes of pupils. Ministers and clergymen came with parties—one from South Wales. The religious public in those days was a large one and when it was roused to attend an art exhibition it made a formidable gathering day after day.

There was also extensive press coverage.

The catalogue is illustrated and has a Preface by W.B. Richmond. At forty-six pages, it is one of the longer and more detailed catalogues in the collection, with each of the sixty-eight objects on display having a full description, followed by a brief entry.