£132,000 South Coast Discovery at Toovey’s

A pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain rectangular tea caddies
£132,000 pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain rectangular tea caddies

A pair of Chinese famille rose enamelled porcelain tea caddies, displayed on a window sill, caught the eye of a Toovey’s valuer during a routine visit to a client’s home. The caddies were subsequently brought in for sale and went under the gavel in a specialist Asian Art sale on Thursday 23rd February 2017.

These Qing dynasty caddies from the Imperial kilns were similar in shape to those made for the European export market. However, the painted blossoming branches and flowering stems accompanied by the lines of text and red seals are typically Chinese in taste, as are the profusely decorated sides with their panels of lotus flowers and tendrils. Measuring just 16.7cm in height they realised a remarkable £132,0000. Both the vendor and Toovey’s Asian Art specialist, Tom Rowsell, are delighted with the result.

Toys and Fundraising at Horsham Museum

Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale, with some of his favourite recent discoveries
Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale, with some of his favourite recent discoveries

Toovey’s toy valuation event in support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is becoming an annual event. Toovey’s specialist toys valuer, Christopher Gale, will be at the museum on Saturday, 18th February 2017, between 10am and 12noon providing free auction valuations and advice on your toy trains, cars, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys.

Chris Gale says: “A third of the seller’s commission for items subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated by us to Horsham Museum to help with its important work.”

A Hornby ‘Princess Elizabeth’ O Gauge electric train with original box
A Hornby ‘Princess Elizabeth’ O Gauge electric train with original box

I ask Chris about his favourite recent discoveries. He shows me a Hornby O Gauge electric train with original box. He says ‘This is one of Hornby’s finest models and reflects the design of the original steam engine. The original Princess Elizabeth locomotive was designed by Mr W. A. Stainer and was built at the Crewe Works in Cheshire. It was one of the first 4-6-2 engines built by The London Midland Scottish Railway (LMSR). The Princess Elizabeth became the most famous of the giant LMSR locomotives when, in 1936, she covered the 401.4 mile run between Glasgow and London at an average speed of 70mph whilst hauling a train. The toy train was produced with the guidance and advice of LMSR.” The model, dating from 1937, looks resplendent in its ‘crimson lake’ livery and the detailing is marvellous.

A Dinky Toys no. 163 Bristol 450 and Sports Coupé and no. 236 Connaught racing car both with their original boxes and an array of sports cars
A Dinky Toys no. 163 Bristol 450 and Sports Coupé and no. 236 Connaught racing car both with their original boxes and an array of sports cars

I love the Dinky Toys no. 163 Bristol 450 Sports Coupé and no. 236 Connaught racing car, both with their original boxes. Bristol and Connaught both raced at Goodwood in the 1950s. Chris comments “Toy cars and tin plate toys always have a strong following. Dinky cars, for example, delight grown-up collectors as they did when they were boys. And they love rare models which aren’t too play worn!”

Chris Gales’ enthusiasm is infectious and his knowledge of toys never fails to impress.

The toy displays at Horsham Museum are marvellous. Bring your toy trains, cars, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys to see Chris Gale between 10am and 12noon on Saturday, 18th February 2017, for a morning of fun and free pre-sale valuations at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE. Toovey’s next specialist toy sale will be held on 21st March 2017. A third of the seller’s commission for items seen at the event and subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. Sellers will receive the full amount they would normally get but they will know that they have helped the Museum as well.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Vanessa Bell Retrospective

Vanessa Bell, Self –Portrait, 1915, Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett
Vanessa Bell, Self-Portrait, 1915, Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

The first ever retrospective of the important Sussex artist, Vanessa Bell (1879–1961), is the latest exhibition to go on show at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

This timely exhibition seeks to place Bell’s work in the context of her life with over one hundred paintings on display. The story of Vanessa Bell’s life has often overshadowed the work which it inspired. But throughout her life she devoted herself to her painting which allowed her to voice her belief in the importance of substance and freedom. Her home at Charleston in Sussex remains a moving testimony to her life – a house transformed by her art.

In London Vanessa Bell had married the art critic Clive Bell and was one of the leading members of what would become known as the Bloomsbury Group. She worked in the Omega Workshops with Roger Fry and collaborated with Duncan Grant in numerous decorative projects and artistic commissions. Both men would eventually become Vanessa’s lovers. Many of her designs embraced the new artistic ideas from the Continent. The abstracted fabric design for the Omega Workshops in watercolour seen here is striking in its modernity but maintains a fluidity underpinned by the use of colour in the composition.

Vanessa Bell, Landscape with Haystack, Asheham, 1912, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts. Purchased with the gift of Anne Holden Kieckhefer class of 1952, in honour of Ruth Chandler Holden, class of 1926. © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

Vanessa Bell visited her sister Virginia Woolf at her Sussex home, Asheham, in 1912 where she painted ‘Landscape with Haystack, Asheham’. Here the influence of the Post-Impressionist exhibitions of 1910 and 1912, organised by Roger Fry at the Grafton Gallery in London, are readily apparent in the way that she employs light, blocks of colour and bold outlines.

It was Vanessa Bell’s love for Duncan Grant and Virginia Woolf which brought about her move to Sussex during the First World War.

Vanessa was living with Duncan Grant, and his friend David Garnett, at Wissett Lodge in Suffolk when Virginia Woolf, wrote to her. In her letters Virginia explained that not only did Charleston house need a tenant but that the neighbouring farmer was short of ‘hands’ to work on the land. Duncan Grant and David Garnett needed to be essentially employed on the land to avoid being called up to fight or the prospect of gaol as conscientious objectors.

Vanessa Bell 1879–1961, Design for Omega Workshops Fabric, 1913, Yale Centre for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund. © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

As well as covering the walls and furniture at Charleston with painted decoration Duncan and Vanessa portrayed those who visited and the countryside around them.

A number of remarkable portraits by Bell are included in the exhibition. Her paintings of Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey and David Garnett are revealing and remarkably daring in their execution challenging our perception of the world and beauty. Amongst these is a self-portrait painted in 1915. Vanessa sits in a chair her head averted from us as she stares from the canvas deep in thought. There is a strength and resilience in her demeanour.

Vanessa Bell, Wallflowers, undated, Private Collection. © The Estate of Vanessa Bell, courtesy of Henrietta Garnett

I have always loved the intimacy of Vanessa Bell’s still lives. The study of wallflowers does not disappoint. The flowers sit in a jug which may well have been decorated by Vanessa at Charleston.

This superb and long overdue exhibition allows us to see Vanessa Bell’s development as an artist and the techniques, themes and subjects which unite her work.

‘Vanessa Bell’ runs at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until the 4th June 2017 and is one of this year’s must see exhibitions. For more information go to www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Paul Nash Retrospective at Tate Britain

Paul Nash’s ‘Equivalents for the Megaliths, c.1935, collection and © Tate
Paul Nash’s ‘Equivalents for the Megaliths, c.1935, collection and © Tate

Tate Britain is currently hosting a major retrospective exhibition of the work of the artist Paul Nash (1889-1946) which runs until 5th March 2017.

Paul Nash is often thought of as an essentially English artist but between the wars he also sought to champion the hope embodied in continental modernism, defending Picasso and experimenting with abstraction before embracing Surrealism. These themes are to the fore of Tate’s exhibition.

Clare Neilson, Photograph of Paul Nash, Pallant House Gallery, The Clare Neilson Gift through the Art Fund
Clare Neilson, Photograph of Paul Nash, Pallant House Gallery, The Clare Neilson Gift through the Art Fund

Nash was drawn to objects sculpted by nature and had what some have described as an overriding habit of metaphor. Trees, for example, could take on the character of stones. This serves to highlight the poetic nature of his painting and how firmly rooted he was in the English tradition. Indeed, his earlier work is influenced by the 19th century English Romantic tradition of William Blake (who like Nash lived in Sussex), Samuel Palmer and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. With this in mind, you could forgive John Piper for including one of Nash’s paintings in his 1943 book ‘British Romantic Artists’. Nash was less than pleased. It was the word ‘romantic’ which bothered him and he referred, instead, to the ‘poetic’. Certainly, as an artist he returned again and again to the poetry of the English landscape. He sought to look beyond the immediate to what he referred to as the ‘genius loci’, the spirit of the place, to ‘a reality more real’.

These qualities are apparent in the works on display at Tate.

The exhibition holds in tension, but fails to make explicit, the particularly English quality in Paul Nash’s paintings – the ability to embrace the modern and the future with a quality of optimism and hope whilst keeping an eye fixed firmly on the past.

His palette and subject matter is firmly rooted in the English watercolour tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In ‘Equivalents for Megaliths’, painted in 1935, Paul Nash displays his enduring fascination with the mystical qualities of inanimate objects. The ancient megaliths, standing stones, are abstracted in geometric forms drawing inspiration from the stones at Avebury, on the Wiltshire Downs.

Paul Nash’s ‘Spring in the Trenches, Ridgewood’, c.1917-1918, Imperial War Museum/Tate
Paul Nash’s ‘Spring in the Trenches, Ridgewood’, c.1917-1918, Imperial War Museum/Tate

Paul Nash served as a soldier in the trenches of the Great War. He subsequently worked as a war artist on the Western Front between 1917 and 1918 and again during the Second World War. ‘Spring in the Trenches, Ridgewood’ was painted in 1917/1918. It is one of many works in the exhibition which highlights Nash’s powerful, uncompromising and often lyrical depictions of the harsh realities of war. As is typical of Nash, in the devastated landscape behind the figures and trench there is hope as a tree comes into bud and birds fly in the rich blue sky which contrasts with the earth hues in the rest of the composition.

With so many superb works on show this Paul Nash retrospective at Tate Britain is a must see to start your year. It runs until the 5th March 2017. For more information go to www.tate.org.uk.

Closer to home Pallant House Gallery in Chichester has a marvellous collection of paintings, wood engravings, etchings, photographs, collage and illustrated books by Paul Nash including many from the Clare Neilson Gift.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Future of Sussex Defined by the Past

Capability Brown’s very English landscape at Petworth

Capability Brown’s very English landscape at PetworthAs a New Year begins it gifts us with a moment to reflect on the rich identity of our county and the role heritage and the arts have in re-telling the common stories which we all share and which bind us together.

Over the millennia when the English, a diverse race, have needed to define themselves they have returned to their monarchy, their landscape, their history and their church, as well as the qualities of service to others, tolerance and fairness. 2016 seemed to epitomise these themes and qualities.

The Rt. Revd. Bishop of Horsham, Mark Sowerby, joined me at the Steyning Festival for a church service to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday. The celebrations included a concert

We celebrated HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday with church services and festivals.

The Bernardi Music Group fund raising for Sussex hospices in the music room at Goodwood House

Our hospices were celebrated and supported by a fund-raising concert given by the Bernardi Music Group at Goodwood House. New and traditional music celebrated the Sussex landscape.

In reaction to the industrial revolution and war from the late 19th and 20th centuries onwards there was a desire to articulate the ancient hope of the English expressed in and through their landscape. A hope bound up with a romanticized view of a rural idyll, lost or under threat.

The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show

The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society was founded in 1871 and its Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show still seeks to honour countryside traditions and learn from the past whilst looking confidently to the future of farming in Sussex.

The 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783), the famous landscape designer, allowed us to focus on the beauty of our Sussex landscape with exhibitions at The Horsham Museum, curated by Jeremy Knight, and by Tom Dommett, the National Trust’s Regional Archaeologist, at Petworth House and Park.

It has never been more important for us to be confident of who we are – to remember our shared story. It is this generous and outward facing identity which will bless us and our county with hope and opportunity in 2017.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.