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.

Official War Artists

Three important English artists were exhibited during the war, all of whom ended up being official war artists: C.R.W. Nevinson, Paul Nash, and Eric Kennington. Oliver Brown stated that:

The three war exhibitions which I have recorded were as different from each other in outlook and performance as possible. Nevinson had as his subject matter the mechanisation of a modern army—the engines of war, the wire, and the shells; Paul Nash, the tragic devastation and disfigurement of a beautiful landscape; Kennington’s interest was the human element and the suffering of the individual fighting man.

In 1916, the gallery exhibited paintings and drawings of war by C.R.W. Nevinson (232). His submissions included La mitrailleuse, The Column on the March, and The Road to Ypres, as well as one sculpture, The Mechanic. Much of the work was bought for galleries and museums and by important collectors, and, according to Oliver Brown, Nevinson made his reputation with the show. He became an official war artist and there was a second exhibition of his work at the gallery in 1918, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Information (254). Nevinson had thirteen subsequent exhibitions at the gallery, of which the Library holds eight. The Library’s copy of the catalogue for the 1916 show is annotated in two hands and includes the insertion of item 31, Before the Storm, that was missing from the printed catalogue.

Open book cover

Ernest Brown & Phillips (1916), Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings of War by C.W R. [sic] Nevinson, Late Private R.A.M.C., Exhibition catalogue. London: Ernest Brown & Phillips, The Leicester Galleries (Exhibition, 232).

In May 1918, the gallery put on an exhibition of fifty-four of Paul Nash’s watercolours and line drawings of the war-torn landscape of the Western Front, titled Void of War (258). Later, in the same year, Eric Kennington exhibited drawings of British soldiers in the trenches (260). Unfortunately, neither of these slight publications are illustrated.

Open book cover, green paper

Bennett, A. (Preface) and Ernest Brown & Phillips (1918), “Void of War”: An Exhibition of Pictures by Lieut. Paul Nash, An Official Artist on the Western Front., Exhibition catalogue. London: Ernest Brown & Phillips, The Leicester Galleries. (Exhibition, 258).

Open book cover, brown paper

Graves, R. (Preface) and Ernest Brown & Phillips (1918), “The British Soldier”: An Exhibition of Pictures by Eric H. Kennington: An Official Artist on the Western Front, Exhibition catalogue. London: Ernest Brown & Phillips, The Leicester Galleries (Exhibition, 260).