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.

During and after the First World War, the profile of the Leicester Galleries changed and it became known for supporting and promoting modernist art. According to Sir Alec Martin, writing the Foreword of Exhibition,

in 1914 … the firm was beginning to become well known for pioneering contemporary loan exhibitions of modern British art, and one-man exhibitions of both British paintings and the French Impressionists such as Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir. … They were the first in London and attracted much attention, some abuse and few sales, though the prices asked were very small.

This was also the period in which the gallery began its engagement with sculpture, for which it was to become very well known.

During the First World War, the subject of the war itself became a key theme and the gallery supported the work of British and European artists (many of whom were serving soldiers) who had witnessed the fighting at first hand.