LEI

Leicester Galleries

Leicester Galleries (Ernest Brown & Phillips), London. Commercial gallery founded in premises off Leicester Square in 1902 by the brothers Wilfred and Cecil Phillips. They were joined in 1903 by Ernest Brown, a dealer of long experience, but the dominant figure in the firm was his son Oliver Brown (1885–1966), who became a partner in 1914 and dedicated his life to the gallery. In the first half of the century it was one of the country's leading venues for promoting avant-garde art. Dennis Farr writes that it was ‘directed with great perception by Oliver Brown in unpretentious surroundings … Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Pissarro, Picasso, and Matisse were all given their first one-man shows [in Britain] at the Leicester Galleries, and, for British artists especially, a series of exhibitions, “Artists of Fame and of Promise”, were devised in which, as the title suggests, the established were mixed with the new hopefuls on equal terms’ (English Art 1870–1940, 1978). Kenneth Clark wrote that ‘The presiding spirit, Oliver Brown, was as small and unpretentious as his gallery, and loved to help young artists and collectors. I made all my early purchases there, usually for sums under five pounds.’ Brown's experience was valuable to the Arts Council in its early days (he served on its arts panel from 1949 to 1954) and his expertise was valued by Christie's auction house (he was a close friend of its chairman Sir Alec Martin). Brian Sewell recalls that ‘ Oliver was the prime source of French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in this country from the very moment the market began to exist. When I went to work at Christie's [in 1958], who was the expert who was called in when any French Impressionist pictures were to be catalogued? It was Oliver, and whatever he said went because we were instructed by Alec to accept his opinion’ (quoted in John Herbert, Inside Christie's, 1990). Exhibition: The Memoirs of Oliver Brown was posthumously published in 1968.