Obituary: Henry Roland

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The Independent Online
Henry Roland was my partner for more than 45 years in our mutual business as art dealers, writes Gustav Delbanco. We both came from Germany where we studied art history; Henry wrote his doctoral thesis on Van Dyck. We did not however meet there but in London at the beginning of 1930 when we opened as dealers in Old Masters in premises in Piccadilly.

Looking back, the opportunities available in the Thirties for the discovery of really important works seems like a fairy-tale. At that time the auctioneers gave no guarantee for the authenticity of art-works and dealers were consequently the preponderant buyers in the showrooms. Soon after our start, business was made difficult by the recession of 1931-35.

During the Second World War we both served in the civil defence. Our duties were relinquished at the end of 1944 when we decided to open a gallery and invited Lillian Browse to become our third partner. She agreed and we rented premises which had lain empty for many years in Cork Street, Mayfair, next to the Redfern Gallery. We decided to devote ourselves also to 19th- and 20th-century art which, although it had previously interested us, had not formed the basis of our trade. At that date, the beginning of 1945, we were one of only six galleries in London to exhibit 20th-century art, whereas today there are several hundred. It is also symptomatic of the subsequent inflation of the art trade that the Cork Street of 50 years ago had only two or three galleries while today it has almost nothing else.

The most essential aspect of art is the artistic and not the historic. But Henry Roland, though trained as an art historian, enriched his appreciation of modern art through his knowledge of the Old Masters.

A number of painters and sculptors who had their first show in our gallery owed their discovery to Henry's discerning eye. And the variety of his collection is certainly proof of the liveliness of his catholic taste.

(Photograph omitted)