"My Worthy Englishman"
Our history has been a distinguished two and a half century journey. Along the way the various incarnations of Gladwell & Patterson overcame the Blitz and enjoyed the friendship of Vincent van Gogh.
The trajectory of the gallery’s celebrated history mirrors the verve of the period’s artistic output: full of high vision and cultivated achievement. The company’s origins are to be found in Gladwell & Company, founded by John Boydell in 1752. Boydell initially specialised in the commission of fine prints from the leading artist of the day. Reproductions, from Reynolds to Romney, were his stock in trade. However, expansion was swift. Oils, watercolours, and all further variations of printmaking, soon shared his gallery’s walls.
Ownership of the gallery passed through two Lord Mayors of London – it’s founder and Sir Francis Moon – and the engraver Robert Graves. Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V and Queen Mary all granted the firm Royal Warrants as, variously, printmakers, publishers and art dealers.
In the early 19th century Thomas Henry Gladwell (1811–1879) oversaw the gallery and, as with much of the company’s early history, its services varied from printer and stationer to engraver and framer. On his death the business passed to his two sons, Henry William Gladwell (1834–1893) and Alfred Thomas Gladwell (1841–1906). So was born Gladwell Brothers, a partnership which was dissolved a little over a decade later.
In the late 19th century Harry Gladwell, son of Henry William Gladwell, travelled to Paris where he made an impression on a struggling young artist working at the French art dealer Goupils. Harry, it seems, was a bon viveur with an idiosyncratic appearance. “Thin as a stick,” judged an 18-year-old Vincent van Gogh. “With two rows of strong teeth, full red lips, a pair of large red protruding ears and close cropped hair. At first every one laughed at him, even I.”
Harry and Vincent were to become firm friends. They shared an apartment in Montmartre, where van Gogh delighted in Harry’s appetite for food and in turn guided the young Londoner on matters of family, art and religion. Vincent grew to love the French bread Harry raved about; Harry began to collect prints advised by Vincent. “My worthy Englishman” as van Gogh called the heir to Gladwell and Company was to replace Vincent at Goupils and in correspondence between Vincent and his beloved brother Theo (as detailed in The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, Penguin Classics) the artist describes how Harry was to enter his father’s business.
The Gladwells later hosted Vincent on his travels in England. Vincent visited the gallery and then the family home. He discovered a house in mourning. Harry’s sister had been killed in a riding accident on Blackheath. Vincent counseled his friend, pacing Lewisham train station. In a telling letter to his brother in the summer of 1876, Vincent sums up their mutual affection in those awful moments. “We know each other so well, his work was my work, the people he knows there I know too, his life was my life,” states Vincent, “and it was given to me to see so deeply into their family affairs, I think, because I believe that I love them.” The friendship was to endure for many years.
In the years since, the company has succeeded in London’s grandest locales, with periods in Pall Mall and Regent Street before settling into the City, in 1932, on Queen Victoria Street. This was to become “Gladwell’s Corner”. Within a mile of Lloyds of London, and in the glorious shadow of St Pauls, Gladwells dealt with a broad canvas of works with traditional figurative and landscape subject matter, united by the shared aspect of quality.
Over the course of the 20th century the gallery’s fortunes became indelibly entwined with the Fuller family who still run the business to this day. Three generations of Fullers have worked for the company, each bringing their own particular vision. Anthony Fuller, the present Director and owner, whose father took on the gallery in 1927, has been at the helm since his father died in 1980. He has continued the Companies tradition of quality and value and Glenn and Cory’s arrival has added an extra dimension to its development and propel the gallery forward in this technological age.
The family has borne witness to extraordinary events during their tenure. As the Blitz raged at the height of the Second World War the gallery’s windows were blown out on 27 occasions although it is worth mentioning as a reflection of todays standards, each morning when Mr. Fuller arrived at the gallery, the windows smashed and paintings spread over the pavement, not a single picture was stolen. The greatest loss during these dramatic times was the archive of letters from van Gogh to Harry Gladwell. Fortunately their existence and content had previously been recorded for posterity.
In 2004 a new venture saw the business arrive in Mayfair, as Gladwell and Company purchased the old, highly-regarded firm of W.H. Patterson Fine Arts at No. 19 Albermarle Street. The gallery had been the vision of Bill Patterson, who fell, serendipitously, into dealing in pictures on being demobbed from the RAF at the end of the war. It was a pleasure for the Fuller family to take on the baton of the gallery’s history.
In December 2012, after a grand closing sale where people came from far and wide to secure a small memento from the historic gallery, the door was finally shut at 68 Queen Victoria Street after over 100 years. Our two galleries in the City and in Mayfair were brought together under one roof in the equally distinguished environment of Knightsbridge. It is here, with the opening of Gladwell & Patterson, that two illustrious legacies combined in our new space at 5 Beauchamp Place.
In recent years the gallery has gone from strength to strength, participating in numerous art fairs world wide. The team have showcased stunning artwork in the United States, Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom, taking the true ‘Gladwells charm’ along with us and meeting many wonderful friends and collectors along the way.
In 2018 we joyously celebrated Anthony Fuller’s 50 years with the company. Anthony often muses on what his father would make of where ‘little old’ Gladwell’s is today, with Claude Monet paintings on the wall, and with some acquisitions dwarfing a year’s takings of yesteryear. “What would my father think of this?” he often says proudly, emotionally and completely endearingly.
More recently we have opened the doors to Gladwells Rutland in the exclusive market town of Oakham in Rutland, offering a new and intimate space in which to show the works of our wonderful artists. A permanent sculpture trail in the grounds of a nearby historic watermill the Lincolnshire countryside and biannual Gallery in the Garden exhibitions have provided a welcome attraction to our clients in the UK and from overseas.
The Gladwell & Patterson ethos has been shaped by an informed yet fresh approach to what the separate parts have always done: presenting the finest works of art to those who appreciate them most, our perceptive, valued clients.