The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Harold Gilman Leeds Market c.1913

At the time Harold Gilman produced this painting, Leeds Market was one of the largest purpose-built markets in the country, with over half of its area enclosed by a large cast iron and glass market hall. The structure of the hall’s glass roof figures prominently, through which light filters onto the figures below. Walter Sickert described the colour of the roof as ‘artichoke green and artichoke violet’.
Harold Gilman 1876–1919
Leeds Market
Oil paint on canvas
508 x 610 mm
Inscribed by the artist ‘H. Gilman’ bottom right
Presented by the Very Reverend E. Milner White 1927


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.
The roof of Leeds Market in the adjoining hall to where Gilman's painting was made
The roof of Leeds Market in the adjoining hall to where Gilman's painting was made
Photo © Tate
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
In an unsigned review of the 1915 London Group exhibition in the Burlington Magazine, Walter Sickert, by this time mostly out of sympathy with Gilman’s work, wrote perhaps somewhat sardonically:
Gilman touches a high level in his ‘Leeds Market’. The intricate drawing of the roof in tones of artichoke green and artichoke violet is an expression of something only found by a born painter intensely interested in his subject.2
Charles Ginner 'Leeds Canal' 1914
Charles Ginner
Leeds Canal 1914
Leeds Museums and Galleries (City Art Gallery)
© Estate of Charles Ginner
Photo © Leeds Museums and Galleries (City Art Gallery) UK / The Bridgeman Art Library
Rutter perceptively drew attention to the similarity of Leeds Market to Charles Ginner’s work (fig.2):
There is not one painting by Ginner that betrays the influence of Gilman; but there is a painting by Gilman which has traces of Ginner’s influence. This is Leeds Market, a lovely thing painted in 1913. The subject, in which the great glass roof of the market is a prominent feature, is in the manner of a Ginner subject, and his influence peeps out rather in the delicate network of the design than in the exquisite shimmering colour which is sheer Gilman, and Gilman at his highest.3
Muirhead Bone 'The Great Gantry, Charing Cross Station' 1906
Muirhead Bone
The Great Gantry, Charing Cross Station 1906
British Museum, London
© DACS 2010
Photo © The Trustees of the British Museum
Certainly this type of ‘working life’ subject was more typical of Ginner, and it is perhaps significant that the visit Gilman made to Leeds which inspired this picture was made in the company of Ginner. So, too, is the use of architectural geometry to lend structure to the composition. But another source of inspiration may have been the large and elaborate drawing of The Great Gantry, Charing Cross Station (fig.3) by Muirhead Bone, exhibited at the New English Art Club exhibition in November–December 1906 (10). Campbell Dodgson illustrated the subsequent print in Etchings and Dry Points by Muirhead Bone (1909).4 There is a great deal of resonance between Bone’s detailed rendering of the complex scheme of girders at Charing Cross and Gilman’s picture of Leeds Market, and this must raise the possibility that he had seen it. A study for Bone’s drawing entered the Tate collection in 1908 (Tate N02300). There is also a strong resemblance to the station canopy of Claude Monet’s Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare St Lazare 1877 (Art Institute of Chicago). This was with the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel in 1911, when it could have been seen by Gilman when he visited Paris with Ginner.
The Very Rev. Eric Milner White CBE DSO, who presented this work to the Tate Gallery, was Dean of York Minster from 1941 until his death. In addition to slightly earlier British works, he collected pictures by Gilman, Sickert, Spencer Gore, Gwen John, Philip Wilson Steer, Paul Maitland and Walter Greaves, many of which were given to York City Art Gallery. Milner White amassed an important collection of studio pottery, which was also given to York City Art Gallery.5

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.

How to cite

Robert Upstone, ‘Leeds Market c.1913 by Harold Gilman’, catalogue entry, May 2009, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012,, accessed 13 April 2024.