Sir John Fleming Leicester (1762-1827), created Baron de Tabley in 1826, is best remembered now for his distinguished patronage of J. M. W. Turner. Described in his obituary as 'the greatest patron of the native school of painting that our Island ever possessed', he was an enthusiastic patron and collector of contemporary British art. Also, he was so concerned with displaying and exhibiting his collection of British painting that he built special picture galleries at his residences in London and in Cheshire. In fact, it is the enormous contemporary publicity of his private gallery of British art in London that bolstered his reputation. In addition to unearthing a body of contemporary accounts of the picture gallery, this article aims to analyse the cultural politics of Sir John's patronage of British art by exploring the ambivalent notion of the public in relation to his private agenda.