Harold Gilman

Leeds Market


Not on display

Harold Gilman 1876–1919
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 508 × 610 mm
frame: 690 × 790 × 75 mm
Presented by the Very Rev. E. Milner-White 1927

Display caption

Gilman was a member of the Camden Town group of artists who painted images of urban life. This work was painted from a detailed drawing made on the spot during a visit to Leeds.The vibrant, working-class life of the market provided subject matter for several Camden Town painters. They were influenced by the Impressionists and their followers such as Van Gogh and Gauguin. This can be seen here in the strong colours and use of small, regular brushmarks. These give the painting a tight structure which is complemented by the pattern of iron struts of the market’s roof.

Gallery label, July 2007

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Catalogue entry


The inspiration for this work may have come from a visit Harold Gilman made to the art critic and writer Frank Rutter, who became Director of Leeds City Art Gallery in 1912. Rutter was an enthusiastic admirer and reviewer of Gilman’s work, and the two became friends. Gilman shows the eastern extension of the City Market at Leeds, a section that was erected between 1897 and 1901. His viewpoint looks east towards the windows and gable.
When Gilman made the picture, Leeds Market was extremely large and impressive. One of the biggest purpose-built markets in the country, it was expanded and developed a number of times. The land between Vicar Lane and Kirkgate in Leeds had been used as a marketplace for livestock, fruit and vegetables since 1822. The area was paved over in 1827, extended in 1846, and between 1853 and 1857 half its area was covered by a large cast iron and glass market hall, perhaps inspired by the example of the Crystal Palace. Further extensions were made to the eastern side of the market hall in 1875 and 1888, including wholesale fish and meat markets and an abattoir, but at the turn of the century it was decided to construct a much larger structure altogether. An architectural competition was held by the City Council, who adopted the plans put forward by Messrs Leeming & Leeming, with construction taking place between 1901 and 1904. Built from Yorkshire stone in a predominantly Flemish style, the building was enriched by a series of domes, pointed roofs and a central steeple. The central market hall was filled with cast-iron stalls and a dragon ornamented perimeter walkway, above which, supported by a series of cast-iron Corinthian columns, was a large glass roof (fig.1). Gilman shows a spot adjacent to the central hall. Leeds market was further expanded in the 1940s and 1950s, but in 1975 it was seriously damaged by a fire in which two-thirds of the market was destroyed. It is currently being restored.1

Robert Upstone
May 2009


For information on the history of the market, see Steven Birt and Kevin Grady, Kirkgate Market: An Illustrated History, Leeds 1992.
Walter Sickert, ‘A Monthly Chronicle: The London Group’, Burlington Magazine, vol.28, no.154, January 1916, p.164, in Anna Gruetzner Robins (ed.), Walter Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, Oxford 2000, p.401.
Frank Rutter, Some Contemporary Artists, London 1922, p.134.
Campbell Dodgson, Etchings and Dry Points by Muirhead Bone, London 1909, pp.138–40.
For this and further details of his life, see Sarah Riddick, Pioneer Studio Pottery: The Milner White Collection, exhibition catalogue, Leeds City Art Gallery 1990.

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