GR

Grosvenor Gallery, London

The Grosvenor Gallery was an art gallery in London founded in Bond Street, London, in 1877 by Sir Coutts Lindsay and his wife Blanche. Its first directors were J. Comyns Carr and Charles Hallé. The gallery proved crucial to the Aesthetic Movement because it provided a home for those artists whose approaches the more classical and conservative Royal Academy RA did not welcome, such as Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane. Lindsay and his wife were well-born and well-connected, and both were amateur artists. Blanche was born a Rothschild, and it was her money which made the whole enterprise possible. The gallery was situated in a grandiose Italianate building, richly decorated and furnished. In deliberate contrast to the RA  method, the pictures were widely spaced apart, with groups of one artist's work placed together. This enabled the spectator to form an overall impression of an artist's style, and was widely welcomed by the artists themselves. The Grosvenor was also the first gallery to be lit by electric light. The opening was a highly fashionable event, attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales, and before long was well established as a serious rival to the RA. Inevitably, many classical painters were drawn towards the Grosvenor, and a check of the lists of exhibits reveals a large number of classical titles. But the aesthetic movement was by its very nature eclectic, and therefore classical themes represent only one among many possible sources of inspiration. The tendency at the Grosvenor was to paint decorative, vaguely allegorical figure subjects, usually in classical robes, and usually with a suitable classical title of a nymph or goddess. Important as the Grosvenor proved to be for the Aesthetic Movement, it did not cause the bitter rivalry between painters of the establishment and outsiders that took place in France for several reasons. First, Victorian England had comparatively little in the way of government patronage but there were enough wealthy patrons to go round. Probably for this reason, painters of all schools and aesthetic tendencies socialized together. In addition, when Frederick Lord Leighton served as President of the RA, he devoted a great deal of energy to making sure that paintings by outsiders received fair treatment and were prominently displayed at the annual exhibition, and he also successfully lobbied to gain election to the RA for major figures like Burne-Jones and Albert Moore whose work differed sharply from that of the academicians. Leighton, one of the bona fide stars of Victorian painting and sculpture, certainly proved himself to be an exemplary leader of the Victorian art world. The Grosvenor displayed work by artists outside of the British mainstream, including Edward Burne-Jones, Walter Crane and other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In 1878, John Ruskin visited the gallery to see work by Burne-Jones. An exhibition of paintings by James Abbot McNeill WHISTLER was also on display. Ruskin's savage review of Whistler's work led to a famous libel case, brought by the artist against the critic. Whistler won a farthing in damages. The case made the gallery famous as the home of the Aesthetic movement, which was satirised in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, which includes the line, "greenery-yallery, Grosvenor Gallery". In 1888, after a disagreement with Lindsay, Comyns Carr and Hallé resigned from the gallery to found the rival New Gallery, capturing Burne-Jones and many of the Grosvenor Gallery's other artists. The break-up of his marriage, financial constraints and personal conflicts forced Lindsay out of the gallery, which was taken over by his estranged wife.