Marlborough Fine Art was founded in 1946 by Frank Lloyd and Harry Fischer who had emigrated from Vienna to England shortly after the outbreak of war. In Vienna, Lloyd's family had been art and antique dealers for three generations and Fischer had dealt in antiquarian books. They were joined in 1947 by David Somerset, later Duke of Beaufort.
In 1951 the gallery initiated its programme of 19th and 20th century masters with an exhibition of the complete bronzes of Degas, followed by exhibitions of Géricault, Courbet, Cassatt, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley, Léger, Renoir, Laurens, Gris, Ensor and crowned by an exhibition of Van Gogh self-portraits in 1960. In the same year it opened a second gallery, Marlborough New London, to exhibit mainly, but not exclusively, a post-war generation of international artists such as Alberto Burri, Piero Dorazio, Juan Genovés, Richard Lin, Georges Mathieu and Arnaldo Pomodoro. These exhibitions were seen to set new standards for commercial galleries both in scope and in catalogue design. Many were recognised as museum quality exhibitions and the gallery became a focus for international collectors, museum directors and connoisseurs as well as art history students.
In the late 1950's and early 1960's Marlborough was the first gallery to introduce a London audience to exhibitions of German and Austrian painting of the 20th century. Exhibitions such as Art in Revolt - Germany 1905-1925, Kandinsky - the Road to Abstraction, The Painters of the Bauhaus, Egon Schiele, Munch and Nolde, and a major Kurt Schwitters retrospective were truly ground-breaking for London. At about the same time, the gallery started to show major contemporary artists and to promote British artists on an international scale in conjunction with the British Council. Marlborough also signed up some of the most important British artists of the time including Francis Bacon, Lynn Chadwick, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Victor Pasmore, Graham Sutherland, as well as emerging artists such as Avigdor Arikha, Frank Auerbach, John Davies, R.B.Kitaj, Joe Tilson and others.
In the 1960's Frank Lloyd moved to New York to run its new gallery which opened in 1963 with a major exhibition ‘Artist and Maecenas: a Tribute to Curt Valentin’, the German émigré who had been one of the leading modern European sculpture and painting dealers in New York for almost 20 years, and who had nurtured many of the then directors of America’s most important art museums. Marlborough had opened its first gallery abroad, in Rome in 1962, followed by Zurich in 1971, Tokyo in 1983, Madrid in 1992 and Monaco in 2000. The ambition was to be able to offer its artists the possibility of exhibitions across the world, and to be able to collaborate with major museums on their exhibitions. In 1972 Frank’s son Gilbert, who had joined Marlborough Fine Art ten years earlier, assumed control of the London galleries.
These galleries continued the tradition of curating shows of modern masters as well as Marlborough’s policy, often in collaboration with the British Council, of the international promotion of their contemporary artists. In this tradition, Francis Bacon’s revelatory retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris in 1971 was followed by major museums exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum, New York in 1975, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, in 1983 and Bacon’s first ever showing in Russia, at the New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, in 1988. Similarly, Marlborough assisted with Henry Moore’s touring exhibitions in Latin America in 1964, Eastern Europe in 1966, and the immense retrospective at the Forte Del Belverdere, Florence in 1972. It has a distinguished history of selling major works to some of the world’s leading art museums, such as Brancusi’s 1911 ‘Maiastra’ to the Tate Gallery, Chagall’s ‘Violinist’ of the same year to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Kokoschka’s 1912 ‘Portrait of Alma Mahler’ to the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Matisse’s 1925 ‘Odalisque au Pantalon Rouge’ to the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Caracas, and Kandinsky’s 1910 ‘Improvisation 9’ to the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
In 1973 the gallery had organised retrospectives of the work of Jacques Lipchitz and René Magritte, Max Beckmann and Max Bill in 1974, a major exhibition of Henri Matisse in 1978 and the innovative Schwitters in Exile show of 1981 which helped to reshape opinion of the late work of this artist. From 1980 onwards the Marlborough stable of international artists continued to expand and be exhibited worldwide, the London gallery taking on a new generation of artists, including Stephen Conroy, Hughie O’Donoghue and Ken Kiff. After the restoration of democracy in Spain, Marlborough, which had already been exhibiting Antonio Lopez García and his circle for a decade, opened its gallery in the capital. Gallery representation has since been established in Barcelona and in Santiago de Chile, and Marlborough has maintained a pattern of participating in the leading art fairs round the globe; the Art Basel, Basel and Art Basel, Hong Kong, Art Basel, Miami, TEFAF Maastricht and Frieze Masters.
Furthering its innovative approach towards the international art market, in 1993 Marlborough was the first gallery in London to exhibit the new generation of post-communist Chinese artists in New Art from China; post-1989, which included artists such as Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Xiaogang. The gallery also developed a close association with the late Chen Yifei, whom it first exhibited in 1996. More than 60 years on, the gallery continues to be associated with some of the greatest living artists of today. Frank Auerbach, Paula Rego and Manolo Valdes, for example, are seen to be among the most important living artists at the peak of their careers. In a shrinking world, Marlborough continues to promote and organise exhibitions in its galleries and beyond, to participate in art fairs and to collaborate with museums in organising exhibitions of its artists. The gallery is also expanding its activities into parts of the world like China, Brazil, Mexico and Russia, as interest in the contemporary art scene continues to grow with new museums, galleries and collectors world-wide.