Published  04/09/2007

Farewell Piccadilly

Godfrey Pilkington, who died aged 88 on 8 July 2007, was the doyen of Cork St gallery directors through the 1970s and 1980s. Supported by his wife Eve, had continued long after reaching an age when most successful art dealers of his generation would have removed to the Côte d'Azur. Studio International included him in a special series on London gallery directors in the 1980s. By then he was at the peak of his career. Assiduously he had enabled several key, but very private individuals, to build up important collections through those years. He had a remarkable eye for the drawn or etched line, and held key exhibitions of Art Nouveau, Symbolist, Secessionist and Neue Sachlichkeit Art. His range of artists was also eclectic including Max Beerbohm, Gwen John, Eric Gill, and William Roberts in his stable: and this reflected his very original and individual approach. The doors of 43 Dover St in recent years, after he had relinquished the Cork St premises to Ralph Lauren, continued to open to all comers. His interest still determinedly excluded abstract art,(for which there were always more than enough takers) and focused with great perception on all aspects of the figurative.

Pilkington was also active in numerous institutional roles. He was chairman of the Society of London Art Dealers (1974-77) at a crucial time, and later a governor of Wimbledon School of Art. Related closely to the Pilkington glass family company, he was a trustee of the Rainsford Trust, which promoted the Arts with its own gallery in St Helens, the company town: this has now been renamed in his honour as the Godfrey Pilkington Gallery.

Pilkington was a familiar figure, even in his seventies, bicycling from his home in West London, with raincoat and woollen cap, to Cork St, and sometimes to his St James's club, the Athenaeum. On one occasion, latterly, he was knocked down on such a journey, but survived. David Hockney caught his sparkle and avuncular pose in a fine portrait sketch. He will be sorely missed.

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