Posts tagged ‘R A Lee’

March 3, 2019

Antique Dealers: Buying, Selling and Collecting opens at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

We finished the install on our new exhibition on Antique Dealers – called ‘Antique Dealers: Buying, Selling and Collecting‘ at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds – all ready for the opening at 1.00pm on MONDAY 4th March.  This show runs until 25th May, so there’s plenty of time to see it – and it’s FREE.

The theme of this exhibition is on the same subject – antique dealers – but this one has a narrower focus than the SOLD! exhibition at The Bowes Museum.  I’ve decided to focus on the personalities of three of the most well-known dealers and antique dealing businesses of the 20th century – Phillips of Hitchin (established in 1884); Ronald A. Lee (established in 1949) and Roger Warner (established in 1936).  Below is a photograph of the R A Lee and Roger Warner sections of the exhibition, with a display in the glass cases of parts of the Lee and Warner archives, as well as some photos of the respective shops of Lee and Warner; and some associated business ephemera.

The Antique Dealers Exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds. 2019.

We also have dealer objects in the exhibition of course – and here’s a photograph of one side of the Antique Dealers exhibition with, left to right, a pen and ink drawing by Anne Webb of the library at Garnstone Hall in 1840, given to Temple Newsam, Leeds Museums by Roger Warner on his retirement from business in 1985; an 18th century chimney board, a bequest in 2008 to Temple Newsam, Leeds Museums, from the estate of Roger Warner (1913-2003); and the early 19th century stool by C.H. Tatham, sold to Temple Newsam by Ronald A. Lee in 1975.  The small arched-top framed ‘picture’ is actually a set of 18th century decorative silk trimmings (passementerie) also part of a bequest from the estate of Roger Warner in 2008.  And finally the 18th century chair from Houghton Hall, Norfolk, sold to Temple Newsam by Phillips of Hitchin in 1960.

The display of dealer objects at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery exhibition on Antique Dealers. 2019.

There are also a range of objects on loan from the private collections of the Warner family – the photograph of the display case below shows a selection of 19th century tiles by the Arts & Crafts designer William de Morgan (1837-1917) – Roger Warner’s grandfather was Metford Warner (1843-1930) the owner of the wallpaper manufacturer Jeffrey & Co., who produced the wallpapers for the Arts & Crafts designer William Morris for his company Morris & Co. It’s thought that the tiles on display may have been passed directly down from Metford Warner through the family to Roger Warner – they are now owned by Simon Warner, Roger’s son – and thanks again to Simon for generously loaning them to the exhibition.  The other object in the glass display case is a 15th or early 16th century oak fragment, carved with a depiction of Adam & Eve – also from Roger Warner’s private collection, and now owned by Simon Warner; and a photograph of Roger Warner at one of the Country House auctions he regularly attended during the 1950s and 1960s.

Roger Warner objects on display in the Antique Dealers exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds. 2019.

There are many other fascinating objects and archives on display, so I hope you get a chance to pop to the University of Leeds to see the Antique Dealers exhibition.  Thanks are due to my co-curator Katie Herrington and to Fred, Eugenie, Laura and the rest of the team at the Brotherton Library Special Collections and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery.  And thanks too to the Leeds Art Fund for so generously supporting the exhibition.

 

 

We are planning to run some events during the run of the Antique Dealers exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at University of Leeds…I’ll update the blog with details of those once we’ve finished planning them all!

Mark

February 27, 2019

Antique Dealers: Buying, Selling and Collecting at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

The ‘Antique Dealers; Buying, Selling and Collecting’ exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds is starting to take shape – we’re just doing the final install this week, and the object loans from Temple Newsam, Leeds arrived yesterday. It’s very exciting seeing this exhibition develop – especially as I now feel like an old hand at exhibitions, having done the SOLD! exhibition at The Bowes Museum.  The Leeds exhibition is on a much smaller scale – only about a dozen or so objects, but it will, I hope, be just as engaging, and I hope will also foreground the amazing antique dealer archives we have at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

The objects from Temple Newsam are being placed back into a dialogue with the original archives from the three of the dealers that are the focus of the exhibition at Leeds – Phillips of Hitchin, Ronald A Lee and Roger Warner. Here’s the first of the Temple Newsam objects arriving at the gallery.

Antique Dealers Exhibition at Leeds University – the packing crates arrive.

The story of the exhibition is on antique dealers buying and selling antiques, and of course and perhaps inevitably, dealers as collectors of antiques – we are using Roger Warner as a key example of the dealer/collector and have been lucky to have a number of objects loans from the private collections of Roger Warner’s family, Sue, Simon and Deborah. Here are a few of those objects, just being installed into the display cases at the gallery – a 19th century mousetrap and an 18th century teacaddy from the collections at Temple Newsam, and some wonderful small objects from Rogers’ personal collection.

Roger Warner objects at the Leeds University exhibition.

We also have an early 18th century chair from Houghton Hall, Norfolk, one of a set of six chairs that Phillips of Hitchin sold to various museums in 1960 – the Temple Newsam chair retains an 18th century green velvet cover.

Phillips of Hitchin chair unpacked and ready for placing in the exhibition at Leeds University.

The install is going well, and Katie Herington (my co-curator on this exhibition) together with Fred, our amazingly helpful gallery technician, and Jill and Laura, have been busy unpacking and placing the objects in the space.

Jill and Fred unpacking objects for the Leeds University exhibition.

Katie placing the 18th century chimney board in the Leeds exhibition.

There’s still lots to do of course, and we are waiting for Eugenie from the Brotherton Library Special Collections team to come by tomorrow to begin to place the antique dealer archive material in the display cases. We have some fantastic antique dealer archives in the exhibition, including some very early stock books, dating from c.1890 from Phillips of Hitchin archives; a fascinating sales book of the 1920s of the dealer H.M. Lee, Ronald A Lee’s father; and Roger Warner’s first sales book from 1936.  As well as a range of intriguing photographs of the dealers’ shops and of their stands at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair from the 1950s and 1960s.

I hope that the ‘Antique Dealers’ exhibition at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery will prove to be a success – there’s been a lot of work by a lot of people in the Brotherton Team and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery to make this happen.

 

I’ll post another blog once the exhibition install has been completed, so you can see what it looks like – it opens on MONDAY 4th March and runs until 25th May 2019 – and it’s FREE!

Mark

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2017

Stair & Andrew material comes to the archive at Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds

Following the blog post highlighting the recent donation of the H.M. Lee and R.A. Lee archives (see previous blog post), we discovered that mixed in with the material that Georgina Gough so kindly donated to the University of Leeds was some material related to the well-known antique dealers Stair & Andrew.  Its not known how this material ended up in the Lee archive, perhaps one of the directors at Stair gave Ronald Lee the material when the firm of Stair & Co (as the business was then called) closed in the early 2000s?

Stair & Co album. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The material is relatively small, comprising  just three albums of press cuttings, advertisements and some brochures, dating mainly for the period from the 1940s onwards; it includes a folder devoted to the firm of R.L. Harrington (formerly known as Christy’s of Kent), trading from 120 & 125 Mount Street, London, which Stair & Co acquired in 1968

Stair & Co album. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds,

The firm of Stair & Co were highly significant dealers, having been established in London as Stair & Andrew in 1911, before opening a branch in New York in 1914. The business was founded by Arthur Stair and Valentine Andrew, who met at the furniture makers Waring & Gillow, before working for the decorating department at Crawford Company, New York.

The actor-manager and collector Sir George Alexander and the furniture historian and collector  Percy Macquoid  were directors of the firm in the early days of the business; Arthur Stair bought Percy Macquoid’s ‘Yellow House’ in London in the 1920s, retaining some of Macquoid’s furniture collection. Alastair Stair (1913-1993), the son of Arthur Stair, joined the firm in 1935. They traded as Stair & Co after WWII, and was 50% owned by the collector Jules C. Stein (of Music Corporation of America) from 1952. David Murdock, the Los Angeles financier, bought the firm in 1981.

The Stair & Co material will, eventually, be supplemented by some other Stair & Andrew material already promised to the archive – see an early blog post on the antique dealer blog (post July 2014) – here’s an image of one of the two scrapbook albums promised to the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Stair & Andrew album, c.1915. Private Collection.

This small collection of Stair & Co material will soon be available for research in the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Mark

July 26, 2017

More new archives! H.M. Lee & R.A. Lee archives arrive at University – and an object biography

Our corpus of antique dealer archives continues to expand – this week we accepted delivery of the archive of the world famous antique dealers Henry Morton Lee and Ronald A. Lee, generously donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds by Georgina Gough, the daughter of Ronald Lee. The archive (shown below before deposit in the Special Collections) comprises a selection of stock books, sales ledgers, press cuttings and photographs of stock, together with what appears to be a complete run of stock cards, dating from the 1920s to the 1990s.

H.M. Lee and R.A. Lee archive. Brotherton Library Special Collections.

The Lee family antique dealing business began in Kingston on Thames just after WWI (Henry Morton Lee began as a hairdresser in London, counting King Edward VII as a customer); Ronald Lee joined his father in the business in 1931 before eventually setting up on his own in 1949 – the business closed in the 1990s.

During the 1920s and 1930s Henry Lee sold a vast array of objects to many of the most important dealers of the day, including Joseph Duveen (1869-1939), the son of Joseph Joel Duveen of the world-renowned Duveen dynasty of dealers – here’s just one page of sales to Duveen, in 1927 – Henry sold him, amongst other things, ‘a Double Dome Walnut Bureau Bookcase..£161.0.0’ and a ‘Walnut armchair £55.0.0.’ –  very fashionable, and very expensive, objects in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lee Archive, sales ledger – entry for Duveen, 1927. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ronald Lee, like his father Henry, was a highly successful dealer, and was also an expert on clocks – especially the clockmaker Joseph Knibb and family (Ronald wrote the biography of the Knibb family of clockmakers in 1965 – still a key work on the subject).  Ronald sold an astonishingly wide range of objects, to collectors and museums all over the world – a key driver for Lee appears to have been the historical significance of objects (as well as their beauty of course);  he was clearly an antiquarian dealer, demonstrated by the historical importance of many of the objects he sold –

The Savernake Horn for example – sold (in partnership with the well-known silver dealer S.J. Phillips) to the British Museum in 1975.

The Savernake Horn, 1100-99 with 14th century mounts. Image copyright The British Museum.

And the so-called ‘Katherine Parr Pott’, (see below) sold to the Museum of London in 1967 – this glass tankard, with silver mounts dated 1546-47, emblazoned with the arms of Sir William Parr, was bought by Ronald Lee from Sudeley Castle – the glass body is now believed to be an 18th or 19th century replacement. The tankard has an illustrious history, having been acquired by the collector Horace Walpole in 1758 (cost £2.19.0) and sold at the dispersal of the Collections at Strawberry Hill (Walople’s house) in 1842 and bought by John Dent for £3.13.6 – the Dent-Brocklehurst family, at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, sold the Parr Pot to Ronald Lee in 1967, before Lee sold the tankard to the Museum of London for £18,214.00 in the same year.  The tankard was subject to an Export Stop because of its historical significance; according to the archive it seems that Lee had initially and successfully negotiated a sale to the Boston Museum of Fine Art in the USA, but funds were raised through the British Government, The Art Fund, The Pilgrim Trust and the Goldsmiths Company to save the tankard for the Nation.

The Parr Pot. Image copyright, The Museum of London.

The ‘Parr Pot’ is just one of a wide range of fascinating stories about the acquisitions made by Ronald Lee in the Lee archive…there are far too many to recount in a short blog post, but it is worth retelling the story of the acquisition, and subsequent sale, of one of the most interesting objects that Ronald Lee sold – the story demonstrates the significance of ‘Object Biographies’ in the conceptualization (and reconceptualization) of objects – it is also a story that re-embeds the significance of the narrative of the personal into these now very public objects.

Anyway, in 1966 Ronald Lee negotiated the sale of what was then considered to be an exceptionally rare 13th century Limoges enamel Ciborium to the (then) Royal Scottish Museum (now National Museum of Scotland).

Ciborium, in the 13th century style – probably 19th century. Photograph copyright National Museum of Scotland.

Lee spotted the bowl of the Ciborium, then lacking it’s foot at an auction sale at Sotheby’s in April 1965.

Ciborium Bowl, lacking foot – photograph copyright Sotheby’s 1965.

He had, a few years earlier, again it seems at a Sotheby’s auction, acquired the stem/foot from a similarly dated object, and which (so Georgina Gough, Ronald Lee’s daughter tells us) Ronald had given to his wife as a little present –

Ciborium Foot; Photograph, Lee Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Seeing the bowl at Sotheby’s presented the opportunity of reuniting the foot and bowl and Ronald Lee had to do the right thing  – (it must be a common practice in all antique dealer families that objects are inherently unstable….and always subject to potential future sale…). The story was reported in the Press at the time, recounting the breathless moment when the foot and bowl fitted together as one – rather like the story of Cinderella and the glass slipper!

But anyway, Lee offered the Ciborium, now with its foot, to the Royal Scottish Museum in 1966, and the then Keeper of Art, Cyril Aldred, approved the acquisition and the object entered the collections in Edinburgh.  The Ciborium was lauded as a major acquisition, it was one of the most expensive objects ever acquired by sale by the museum at that time – costing £8,500 – an enormous sum in 1965.  It was related to the Master Alpais, the creator of the 13th century Ciborium in the collections of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and to a similiar Ciborium in the collections at the British Museum in London; the world renowned scholar and curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, John F. Hayward considered these comparisons and the significance of the Ciborium in an extensive article ‘A Newly discovered Limoges ciborium’ in Connoisseur (vol CLIX, pp.240-1). So consensus at the time, from leading experts, curators, and one of the leading antique dealers, was that the Ciborium was of the 13th century, and possibly associated with the workshop of the Master Alpais.

But authenticity is also an unstable concept – indeed, if we can borrow, and slightly amend, a phrase from Georg Simmel (1858-1918), the philosopher and critic, and founder of the discipline of anthropology, (he writes that ‘value is not a property of objects, but a judgement by a subject’), then perhaps we can say that authenticity is also not a property of an object, but a judgement by a subject –  Time, and, more importantly, new knowledge structures have repositioned the Ciborium, and it now considered to be a 19th century copy – for a full, and excellent account of the art historical and scientific analysis of the Ciborium at NMS and a comparison with that at the British Museum  see ‘The Heritage of ‘Maitre Alpais’ edited by Susan La Niece, Stefan Rohrs and Bet McLeod, (British Museum Press, 2010).

There is no moral to this story as such – I hesitate to rehearse the notion ‘caveat emptor!’, especially as I am writing about antique dealers, and I’m conscious that to rehearse this story is also to further embed the trope of the dealer as ‘problematic’ in the cultural consciousness – but it remains a fascinating story about an object, and how its meaning, and significance, is reframed as it moves between discrete, but intimately interconnected realms.  As this story recounts, the meaning of the Ciborium shifted as it moved between the realms of objects of commerce and economic value to those of heritage and museums, but, crucially, it retained its commodity status, and its status shifted again as new approaches and methods established, (indeed constituted) the authenticity of the object.

But for me, being an old Romantic, the enduring story about the Ciborium is the very human story of Georgina’s recalling that the foot of the Ciborium was a present (albeit temporary) for Mrs Lee.

All the while these objects acquire significant status in museums, they remain as catalysts for innumerable personally situated memories, of the private, intimate relationships we have with things.

Mark

November 23, 2016

New ‘BADA Voices’ Oral History Interview – Georgina Gough, of R.A. Lee

Our latest in the series of ‘BADA Voices’ Print Oral History interviews took place last month, and in the chair was Georgina Gough, daughter of the world-famous antique dealer Ronald A. Lee (d.2000).

ggough

Georgina Gough. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough, 2016.

In this fascinating interview, Georgina tells us about the history of the family business, which started in the 1920s with her grandfather, Henry Morton Lee, a former hairdresser to King Edward VII, who opened an antique shop in Kingston-on-Thames.  By 1931 the business expanded and was renamed as H.M. Lee & Sons – and one gets a sense of the high quality antique furniture sold by H.M. Lee in this photograph of the stand of H.M. Lee at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in the 1930s. Fine quality late 17th and early 18th century English furniture was at the height of taste during the second quarter of the 20th century.

h-m-lee-1930s-gh

Stand of H.M. Lee & Sons at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair during the 1930s. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough.

Georgina’s uncle, Morton Henry Lee (‘Uncle Mo’, as Georgina tells us in the interview) joined his brother, Henry, during the early 1930s, and by the late 1930s Ronald Lee, Henry’s son, had joined the family business. ‘Uncle Mo’ eventually opened a separate antique shop in Chichester, specializing in French furniture – something that H.M. Lee was less interested in. And by 1949 Ronald A. Lee had established his own antique business at 1 The Terrace, Richmond Hill, Twickenham (where Georgina was born) – here again, is a photograph illustrating the high quality stock that was synonymous with the Lee family of antique dealers.

r-a-lee-gh-1950s

The stand of R.A. Lee at The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair – c.1950. Photograph courtesy of Georgina Gough.

As many of you will know, Ronald Lee was a leading expert on English clocks, and indeed was the author of what still remains a key reference work on Knibb clocks – The Knibb Family of Clockmakers (1964). During the interview Georgina provides some fascinating insights into the antique trade during the period after WWII, as well as her personal memories of her father and other well known dealers at the time such as Roger Bluett, Ronnie Lock and Bob Williams.  Georgina also reminds us that as well as working with her father, she also worked for a number of other leading antique dealers a various points during her career in the antique trade, including the silver specialist Brand Inglis, and at one of the other leading English furniture specialists, Stair & Company – a firm that, like the Lee family of dealers, had roots back into the early decades of the 20th century.

As with all our Oral History interviews, we hope to make our interview with Georgina available on the project websites as soon as we are able.

Mark

 

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