Martin Henry Colnaghi was a member of the Colnaghi family of print publishers and art dealers, founded by his grandfather, Paul Colnaghi (1751-1833). In the early nineteenth century, a family dispute led to a division of the business. Paul and his older son Dominic worked together as P. and D. Colnaghi in Pall Mall, while the younger son Martin continued the business in Cockspur Street. Martin filed for bankruptcy in 1843. His son, Martin Henry Colnaghi, also ultimately pursued a career as an art dealer. He worked for his uncle Dominic, and for Henry Graves, before opening the Guardi Gallery in 1876 in a space vacated by the dealer Louis Flatou.
The Guardi Gallery seems to have taken its name from two paintings by the eighteenth-century Venetian artist Francesco Guardi. The first advertisement for the gallery that I have located appeared in the Athenaeum on 3 June 1876: “M. Martin Colnaghi has the honour to inform lovers of Art that the Two grand Gallery Works painted for Louis XVI. by Francesco Guardi, Views on the Grand Canal, Venice, will be on view, on and after that 6th of June, at the Guardi Gallery, No. 11, Haymarket. – Admission, one shilling.” (1)
Old Master painting remained an important area of Colnaghi’s expertise. A full page advertisement in the back of an auction catalogue from Christie’s advised: “Mr. Martin Colnaghi can be consulted on all matters connected with the works of the Old Masters, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Guardi Gallery, 11 Haymarket, London. (The Hamilton Palace Collection. London: Christie, Manson and Woods, 1882) But he also exhibited and sold the work of contemporary Continental artists. In a brief note about the first Winter Exhibition held at the gallery in 1877, the critic for the Art Journal wrote “The Guardi Gallery is devoted to the exhibition of modern Continental pictures of a high class; and, from the long experience of its director, Mr. Martin Colnaghi, the public may look upon this as the first in a series of pictorial gatherings which will widen their knowledge and improve their taste.” (“The Guardi Gallery, Haymarket,” Art Journal, February 1877, 56).
A guidebook described the gallery in 1885: “A few doors down from the Haymarket Theatre, at No. 11, Haymarket, is the Guardi Gallery of Mr. Martin Colnaghi, who for some years has been known in London as an excellent judge of the works of Continental artists, both of the old and modern schools. There are usually some pictures here which should provide interesting to amateurs. Mr. Martin Colnaghi is (or was) a constant attendant and buyer at the picture sales at Christie’s, his name not unfrequently appearing as a purchaser of more than one work for which the competition has been keen. This thoroughfare may be said to mark the boundary of the locality of the picture-dealers of West-end London” (Pascoe 300).
In 1887 Colnaghi moved his business to 53 Pall Mall, and renamed it the Marlborough Gallery. A review in the Times in March of that year suggests that for some period of time Colnaghi occupied both gallery spaces: “A few doors further up the Haymarket is Mr. Martin Colnaghi’s exhibition of modern pictures, re-organized and set in order in consequence of his having removed his collection of old masters to the Marlborough Gallery at the west end of Piccadilly” (“Art Exhibitions” 4) This division of the business didn’t last for long. On 26 February 1889, Colnaghi placed an advertisement in the Times saying, “Mr. Martin Colnaghi, owing to mistakes which are daily occurring, begs to give notice that he has no other address but the Marlborough Gallery, 53, Pall-mall” (1). Colnaghi died in 1908 (“Mr. Martin Colnaghi,” Times, 29 June 1908, 9.)
Continued as: Marlborough Gallery
Address: 11 Haymarket
Start Date: 1876
End Date: 1887 *
Dealer: Martin Henry Colnaghi (1821-1908)
Specialization: Old Masters and contemporary Continental art
Winter Exhibition of high-class modern pictures of the French, Italian and Spanish Schools (December 1876 - 1877) [Times, 4 December 1876, 1]
Continental Pictures (July 1881) [TYA 1882, 49]
A Field Trial Meeting, by George Earl (June and July 1884) [TYA 1885, 85]
Exhibition catalogues: National Art Library, London (1881)
Farr, Dennis. “Colnaghi family (per. c. 1875-1911). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. [http://oxforddnb.com/view/article/65614] Accessed 11 October 2004.
Pascoe, Charles Eyre. London of today: An illustrated handbook for the season. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1885.
*The dates that appear in the heading are those identified as securely documented “start” and “end” dates when the map animation was created. Additional research has extended the time span that the gallery can be documented at this address.