PICCADILLY GALLERY ARCHIVE

Extract from the obituary in The Guardian of Godfrey Pilkington, founder of the Piccadilly Gallery, 20 August 2007: As a director of London’s Piccadilly Gallery, from 1953 to 2007, Godfrey Pilkington, who has died aged 88, brought a gentlemanly style and attitude to his trade. If his approach now seems amateurish it was because he had a love for what he was doing: he sold only those works of art he believed in, rather than fashionable names and money-spinners. After his Cork Street Mayfair lease ran out in 1999 - the premises were taken over by the Ralph Lauren chain - he moved to a basement at 43 Dover Street. When the gallery closed for good in March it was the end of an era. Pilkington had been an anchor of the art trade. Wartime service in North Africa and, as a Cheshire Regiment lieutenant in the central Mediterranean and Italy confirmed Pilkington in his decision that his future lay in art rather than the family business. He briefly joined Pilkington’s in 1946 but the following year went to work for Frost and Reed, the firm of West End picture dealers founded by his maternal grandfather and by then being run by his aunt. She trained him well. In 1950 he married Eve Vincent - they first met at Euston station on their way to mutual friends in the country - and they worked at the firm’s Bristol branch. Three years later they opened their own Piccadilly Gallery in bomb-damaged Piccadilly Arcade premises. Soon afterwards the gallery moved to Cork Street where they were joined by a third partner, Christobel Briggs. Although small the Piccadilly Gallery had its own flavour. Pilkington had no interest in abstract expressionists, pop art, op art, or any of the prevailing fashions. He could scarcely conceal his dislike for abstract art and would have none of it. Instead, the gallery held groundbreaking exhibitions of figurative art: Art Nouveau, Symbolists, Secessionists such as Klimt and Schiele, German Neue Sachlichkeit. Among British artists he promoted the short-lived Brotherhood of Ruralists and Adrian Berg as well as Max Beerbohm, Gwen John, Eric Gill and William Roberts. Pilkington had an original mind and he was a highly observant individual in his judgments. He edited Picture and Prints Magazine (1951-60) and was master of the Fine Art Trade Guild (1964-66), chairman of the Society of London Art Dealers (1974-77) and a governor of Wimbledon School of Art (1990-2000). A trustee of the Rainsford Trust, set up by Pilkington’s to promote the arts in St Helens, he was also chairman of the St Helens open art competition and encouraged artists such as Antony Gormley and Anthony Green to sit on the judging panel. Shortly before his death the Rainsford Gallery, the borough’s community art gallery, was renamed the Godfrey Pilkington Gallery in his honour.


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