The path to Beauchamp Place, in the prestigious pocket of London’s Knightsbridge, has been a distinguished two and a half century journey.
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, such as etching and mezzotinting soon shared his gallery’s walls.
Ownership of the gallery passed through two Lord Mayors of London – it’s founder Boydell and Sir Francis Moon. Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, Queen Mary and the Prince of Wales 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 art dealing to 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 to last for a little over a decade before the brothers went their separate ways.
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, one Vincent Van Gogh, who was 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 and Harry also introduced him to porridge; 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 numerous travels to England. Vincent visited the gallery and then the family home. On one occasion he discovered a house in mourning. Harry’s sister had been killed in a riding accident on Blackheath. Vincent counseled his friend, whilst 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.
Although always based in the City of London the company has had branches in London’s grandest locales, with periods in Pall Mall, Kingsway and Regent Street In the 1880’s the gallery was in Gracechurch Street before moving to the corner of Cheapside and Queen Street. In 1928, the company moved to Queen Victoria Street where it remained for 85 years. This was to become known as “Gladwell’s Corner”. Within a mile of Lloyds of London, and in the glorious shadow of St Pauls. Gladwell’s dealt with a broad canvas of works with traditional figurative, landscape and marine 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 joined 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 Albemarle 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 this fine galleries history.
A decade on and, in 2013, 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, at Gladwell & Patterson, that two illustrious legacies combined in our new space at 5 Beauchamp Place. Our new gallery 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.