The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

Grand house on Canonbury Square
Home of the Estorick Collection, Canonbury Square by Robert Atkinson

Those who journey to Islington and make their way to Canonbury Square via Upper Street and Canonbury Lane are pleasantly surprised to find an unexpected gem on their walk. Situated at the corner of Canonbury Square and Canonbury Road is a large Georgian property which is home to the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. And what a terrific find it is.

Today, the house is a Grade 2 listed property but originally it was known as Northampton Lodge and was built by property developer Henry Leroux between 1807-1810. Leroux had leased land from the 9th Earl of Northampton in order to build a number of residential properties in the area.

It was here that that the Eric and Salome Estorick Foundation established an educational charity in the 1990s to display one of the finest collections of early twentieth century Italian art. The gallery is best known for its displays of Futurism art by artists such as Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carra, Luigi Russolo, Giorgio Morandi and several others of that era. They set out, by the use of vibrant colours, to show the beauty and speed of the modern world and the dynamism of the speeding car, train and aeroplane – a complete break with Italian history of the past. Futurism was first established in 1909 by the Italian poet Filippo Marinetti who sought the rejection of traditional culture and the sweeping away of institutions such as libraries and museums.

Born in Brooklyn NY in 1913, Eric Estorick was an American sociologist, art collector & dealer and writer. He moved to London in 1941 and became known to leading British politicians of the time including Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden and Aneurin Bevan. Returning home to America in 1947, he met his future wife, Salome, onboard the ocean liner carrying them across the Atlantic. Following their marriage and while honeymooning in Europe, Eric discovered a love of Italian art and bought a large number of paintings which he loaded into his car to drive back to London. The Estoricks continued to travel frequently to Italy and befriended many artists there. Eric later received official recognition from the Italian Government for his support for Italian art. He died in 1993.

The house has recently been refurbished and there are six galleries to walk round allowing  plenty of space to admire the paintings and sculptures on display. There is also a café, shop and art library. 

Why not take a tip from Stephen Bayley, designer, cultural critic, journalist and author who has described the gallery ‘as the most civilised way to spend an hour in north London’. 

Please contact Robert Atkinson the author of this post if you would like to a guided tour of this area.