Borough Road Gallery celebrates is a project of London South Bank University (LSBU), located as part of the university campus at Elephant and Castle, South London.
The Gallery looks after a collection of over 150 paintings, drawings and prints by renowned British artist and teacher David Bomberg (1890–1957) and some of the ‘Borough Group’ artists. The Borough Group were taught by David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic (now LSBU) in the mid-1940s and early 1950s, and came together as a collective to explore and advocate the ideas that Bomberg promoted through his painting and teaching.
Known as ‘A David Bomberg Legacy – The Sarah Rose Collection’, the collection was generously gifted to the University in 2009 by private collector Sarah Rose, who gradually built it up over the course of 30 years. The strong historical link between the artists and the University, and our location near to Bomberg and Borough Group holdings at Tate Britain and the Imperial War Museum, made the University a natural choice to house this important collection. The Gallery is, interestingly, based in the same building in which Bomberg’s classes took place.
These classes have now become legendary for their radical approach to teaching and painting, and for the influence that they had on the artists who attended them. However, Bomberg and the Borough Group did not enjoy the recognition they deserved at the time and, although Bomberg is now arguably one of the most celebrated British artists of the twentieth century, this is the first public collection to give such prominence to his teaching and influence on other artists. It is also the first to give proper recognition to the Borough Group. This was a driving force for Sarah Rose in creating her collection, as she always intended for it to be made accessible to the public.
The collection consists of works by David Bomberg, Dennis Creffield (b.1931), Cliff Holden (b.1919), Edna Mann (1926–1985), Dorothy Mead (1928–1975) and Miles Richmond (1922–2008), amongst others. The oldest piece in the collection is a page of Cubist Studies by David Bomberg, made in 1914. The most recent is a charcoal, Jerusalem Wedding, by Dennis Creffield, 2009.
In 2011 the University was exceptionally fortunate to receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, which provided funds for the creation of the Gallery, together with a part-time curator post and a two-year public programme of exhibitions and educational activities. The Gallery was formally opened to the public by Alan Yentob, Creative Director for the BBC, in June 2012 to an audience of over 300 people. Since then, the exhibition programme has included an introduction to the collection with a selection of key works, and a historical look at the formation of the Borough Group in post-war London.
The establishment of the Gallery and our initial exploration of the Borough Group has been a tremendously exciting journey, made possible by the foresight of Sarah Rose, the links Miles Richmond maintained with the University until his death in 2008, the generosity of the HLF, and the continued support of artist Dennis Creffield, as well as family and friends of other Borough Group artists, to whom we are indebted. Let the journey continue.
Rachel Fleming-Mulford, Curator, and Professor Andrew Dewdney, Project Director, Borough Road Gallery, London South Bank University