James Harvey and his wife Flora took over the much loved Dundas Street gallery, Anthony Woodd, in February while Woodd - an art dealer in Edinburgh for 40 years - continues as an active consultant.
Harvey, who has enjoyed a distinguished career in London, says that the chance discovery that Woodd was looking to “take things easier” led to a meeting of minds. “We share traditional ideas of old-fashioned picture-dealing, both in our taste and in our methods.
“While Harvey & Woodd has an enhanced online presence, we believe in having a destination gallery where people come to see things. So often, people will come to look at one picture and end up buying something completely different.”
Fans of the gallery should expect “no major changes”, with the focus continuing to be on 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century Scottish and British art, peppered with a few contemporary pieces. On the day I visited, traditional works by Arthur Perigal and Archibald Thorburn hung next to contemporary painters like Tania Still and Alistair Erskine. “We like to mix them,” Harvey says, “because it shows clients they can do that too.”
While this will be the flavour in the gallery most of the time, some special exhibitions are planned, including a show in June of the Beatrice Huntington and William Macdonald Collection. This extensive group of works by the husband and wife, who were contemporaries of the Scottish Colourists, was brought together by Edinburgh-based collector William Syson who died in 2019.
Huntington, born in St Andrews, enjoyed a long and varied career, experimenting with avant-garde styles in the 1920s and 1930s, then becoming an acclaimed painter of portraits. The collection contains examples of her work spanning 70 years, including her boldly modern painting A Muleteer from Andalucia, which was shown in National Galleries of Scotland’s Modern Scottish Women exhibition in 2015.
Macdonald, known as “Spanish Macdonald” because of his passion for Spain, is represented principally by his landscapes. He was a friend of Samuel Peploe and F. C. B. Cadell, and the collection includes a debonair portrait of him by Cadell, Portrait of a Man in Black, as well as other works Macdonald and Huntington collected.
Harvey says: “They weren’t overlooked, exactly, but there wasn’t a volume of work which had come to light. Syson did an amazing job of curating this group of works and it’s a privilege to offer them for sale.”
His own career in art dealing began when, as a 16-year-old school leaver in Wiltshire, he managed to talk his way into a job as a porter with Phillips auction house in Bath. “My father said he would buy me a suit, and not to come home until I’d found gainful employment,” he remembers. “I was incredibly lucky - helped by the arrogance of being 16.”
After rising up through Phillips picture department, he happened to see a television programme about Victorian painting presented by the legendary dealer Christopher Wood (also known to many as one of the experts on Antiques Roadshow). “He was passionate about a period which had gone out of fashion. I was inspired, so I rang him up and said ‘I’d like to come and work for you’.”
This led to a 20-year career working with Wood, both in London and in the United States, before moving on to other solo ventures. He said: “I’ve been an auctioneer and dealer all my life and I’ve loved it. You’re surrounded by beautiful things, interesting people. It’s a fine business - and Edinburgh is a wonderful place to be doing it.”