Barclay Lennie

Born: September 26, 1940;

Died: July 23, 2023

In 1970 Barclay Lennie, who has died aged 82, was running his pub in Glasgow’s Saltmarket. He loved Alsatians and took his dog to work every day. He also visited the sale rooms. One day he saw a Jessie M King Christmas card and bought it for his wife, Mignon. A romantic gesture. Soon collecting and researching the work of this fin de siecle artist became a passion. He was also collecting all things Glasgow. Thus began his second career as gallery owner.

Len was a born collector. At seven his bedroom walls were covered in bottle labels carefully stuck on cardboard. Stamps followed - later cars, his favourite a silver blue Lotus Elan. He had a Dinky collection of every model of car he ever owned.

But his absolute passion was Glasgow. The history of Glasgow, pictures of Glasgow, decorative arts made in Glasgow, always Glasgow, happily filling the family home in Kingsborough Gardens with books, art, and antiques.

By the time I met him in the 1980s he was a well-known authority on Glasgow Style works of art with an astonishing breadth of knowledge about Scottish art. He was also famous for sharing his knowledge with collectors, as well as art historians like Mackintosh expert Peter Trowles who told me, "His gallery in Bath Street was alongside John Green, Cooper Hay and Phillips the auctioneers. He was always willing to share his extensive knowledge and contacts in the art world. We worked together on several things including the spectacular 1999 Jesse King exhibition for Glasgow Art School.”

When Lennie began his detective work in the 1970s one could still find Jessie King illustrated books in junk shops for a couple of pounds. Now they sell for thousands. He found pieces of her Liberty's silver and enamel jewellery in the Barras for a few quid. Today a rare example can fetch £3,000. Originally he didn't plan to collect her ceramics or books (she illustrated more than 200 volumes) but was quickly seduced. He also collected batik work as well as the precious, delicate watercolour paintings on vellum. He loved everything she did.

Len's passion for both Glasgow and Jessie M King became such that after selling his pub in 1984, he delved full time into art and history, combining his knowledge of and fascination for the city with setting up the Jesse M King archive, the world's most comprehensive collection of her pictures, books, pottery, photos and ephemera. A century ago King was internationally acclaimed. She won the gold medal at the 1902 Turin international, visited Budapest, Berlin and France and her work appeared regularly in influential magazines like Studio. Along with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, she exhibited at the Venice Biennale.

Barclay Lennie’s decision to open a gallery grew directly out of his love for King’s work. His major 1989 exhibition of her work proved his fascination was shared by thousands. He was astounded that there were queues round the block. He showed Talwin Morris, Annie French and others too.

As treasurer of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Art, Barclay Lennie also got to know many Glasgow artists, and helped young GSA graduates, giving them their first award and sometimes an exhibition. For over 40 years his downtime was spent at a beloved cottage on Inchmurrin Island - chopping logs and building a stone jetty - from where he has asked that his ashes be scattered over Loch Lomond.

A former Bath St neighbour, Alasdair Nichol, chairman of Philadelphia’s Freeman Auction house and well-known American TV Antiques Roadshow star, sums things up. "I made my first ‘proper’ oil painting purchase from Len in the 1980s. He is a real loss to the Glasgow arts community and beyond.”

He is survived by his wife Mignon, daughters Mignon Reid and Jacqueline Chivers, and grandchildren Lauren Reid, Jake Reid and Callum Reid.