A Contemporary Renaissance in British Realist Painting

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 01 2016
Peter Brown – ‘View of Chichester Cathedral’, oil on canvas, signed and dated 2003

Peter Brown – ‘View of Chichester Cathedral’, oil on canvas, signed and dated 2003

Contemporary British Realist painters are leading a renaissance in figurative and landscape art. Many of them are members of the New English Art Club.

The New English Art Club was founded in 1886 as an exhibiting society for artists influenced by French Impressionism, whose work was rejected by the then conservative Royal Academy. Artists included James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Walter Sickert, John Singer Sargent and Philip Wilson Steer.

Today members of the New English Art Club continue to paint in a realistic, figurative style.

Amongst the youngest of these is Peter Brown (b. 1967) who was elected to membership in 1998. He paints street scenes and city landscapes directly from his subjects, like the winter view of Chichester Cathedral in West Sussex. He works ‘en plein air’ in all weathers drawing inspiration and energy from his engagement with passers-by.

Bernard Dunstan - 'Going to Bed', oil on board, signed with initials

Bernard Dunstan - 'Going to Bed', oil on board, signed with initials

Bernard Dunstan (b.1920) was elected to the New English Art Club in 1946. He studied firstly at the Byham Shaw School of Art and then at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1939 and 1941. He is best known for his studies of figures in interiors, especially nudes, which he paints in the Anglo-French tradition of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Slade’s emphasis on swift, decisive lines drawn from the model can be discerned in the freedom and movement of light in Dunstan’s oil, ‘Going to Bed’.

Ken Howard - 'Newlyn High Water', oil on canvas-board, dated 2014

Ken Howard - 'Newlyn High Water', oil on canvas-board, dated 2014

The artist Ken Howard (b. 1932) is often quoted as saying “For me painting is about three things…revelation, communication and celebration.” He studied at the Hornsey School of Art and was elected as a member of the New English Art Club in 1962, serving as President between 1998 and 2003. His work combines keen observation with fine draughtsmanship and tonal precision. Light is the overarching inspiration in his paintings as can be seen in the oil ‘Newlyn High Water’. His subjects include Venice, London, Cornwall and Studio nudes.

Like all these artists, Ken Howard allows us to glimpse something beyond our immediate perception by using the particular vocabulary of his painting and style to communicate his vision of the world around him. In this he uplifts us, celebrating human dignity and a sense of wonder in nature.

For me there is a subtle irony in the apparent role reversal whereby today the Royal Academy embraces the abstract and contemporary whilst the New English Art Club is overseeing a renaissance in contemporary realism and draughtsmanship amongst this spirited and talented group of artists.

Prices for these artists range from the low thousands into the tens of thousands of pounds at auction, which clearly affirms collectors’ delight in Contemporary British Realist art.

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 Timeless Appeal of Boulle Marquetry

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 25 2016
A mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival Boulle marquetry cabinet

A mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival Boulle marquetry cabinet

Boulle marquetry is named after the French ébéniste André-Charles Boulle who perfected the use of brass and tortoiseshell marquetry.

Detail of a mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival red tortoiseshell Boulle marquetry cabinet door

Detail of a mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival red tortoiseshell Boulle marquetry cabinet door

André-Charles Boulle was the most celebrated of Louis XVI’s furniture-makers and designers. Today, only a very few attributable examples of his work survive. The costly magnificence of his furniture perfectly matched the court at Versailles and he was appointed ‘ébéneste et marqueteur du roi’ in 1672. The term ébéniste’ refers to a French cabinet maker, as distinct from a Menuisier or joiner.

To create Boulle marquetry, sheets of brass and tortoiseshell are glued together. These sheets are then cut into fretwork designs. The cut layers can then be combined like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle. Where the decorative ground is tortoiseshell inlaid with brass it is termed ‘first-part’; whereas a brass ground with tortoiseshell inlay is known as ‘counter-part’.

To increase the richness of effect the brass was often engraved. The surfaces of such a piece of furniture, where it is not decorated with Boulle marquetry, are typically veneered in ebony. Mother-of-pearl and pewter were sometimes employed in these decorative designs.

In the 19th century Boulle marquetry furniture was widely manufactured in France and England. It was Napoléon III’s consort, the Empress Eugénie, who inspired a revival in Louis XVI taste. This Neoclassical style was expressed in furniture of the very highest quality. The mid-19th century French side-cabinet illustrated is a fine example. Its elaborate ‘first-part’ red tortoiseshell and brass Boulle marquetry and gilt-bronze mounts are typical of the period. The sumptuous door has a gilt-bronze oval plaque beautifully cast with a chariot, classical maidens and cherubs which is framed by a stiff leaf and berry border beneath a delicate ribbon surmount. The English call bronze gilded with ground gold Ormolu, the term is derived from the French ‘bronze doré d’or moulu’. The elegant flower and leaf brass inlay is delicately engraved – resplendent against the red tortoiseshell ground. The cabinet with this rich panel was beautifully crafted and realised £4400 at Toovey’s.

A mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival Boulle marquetry centre table

A mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival Boulle marquetry centre table

The large mid-19th century French Louis XVI revival Boulle marquetry centre table was of unusually large proportion, measuring over 7½ feet in length. Its rare size ensured that despite its poor condition the hammer fell at £11,500 in a Toovey’s specialist auction of furniture.

These prices confirm the timeless appeal of the finest examples of Boulle marquetry furniture. If you would like advice or to learn more contact Toovey’s furniture specialist, William Rowsell on 01903 891955.

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.


Thomas and Friends at Toovey’s

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 23 2016

Lot 93 original Timothy Marwood illustration

Thomas the Tank Engine and friends Percy, Harold and Annie are just a few of the friendly and nostalgic faces on offer in our December auctions. Add into the mix Noddy, Big Ears, Popeye, Winnie the Pooh and the Bunnykins rabbits and you have quite an eclectic children’s tea party! As a book specialist I see numerous collections of children’s literature, often collected on the merits of their illustrators alone. However, there are numerous avenues available at auction to explore and delight in children’s illustration beyond the medium of printed literature.

Lot 94 original Timothy Marwood illustration

Timothy Marwood, Barbara Vernon Bailey and Robert Tyndall are three quite different artists who open doors into alternative fields of collecting through their engagement with childhood imagination.

Timothy Marwood was an illustrator for the Thomas and Friends magazines from 1987-2007, published by Marvel Comics until issue #305 in 1999. Although not classically considered a Marvel comic, the legacy of Thomas and Friends was interestingly hinted at with a Thomas the Tank Engine cameo in the 2015 Marvel film Ant Man. The director Peyton Reed, when interviewed about the inclusion of the cartoon train, emphasised Thomas’ status as a locomotive icon, ‘you could do any kind of toy train, but the personality of that thing and the eyes moving back and forth give it a whole vibe and took it to another level.’ There were also strict stipulations put in place to ensure ‘nobody could be tied to the tracks and run over by Thomas. Thomas couldn’t be doing anything that could be perceived by children as evil Thomas’, highlighting the importance of his childlike innocence to the Thomas brand. Marwood’s pen and ink illustrations included in Toovey’s December auction of Fine Art encapsulate the heroism and kindness represented by Thomas and Friends without the need of accompanying text [lots 93-96]. Any child’s bedroom would be improved with an original Marwood drawing of a rescue from Harold the Helicopter. Timothy Marwood also illustrated issues of Rosie & Jim, Thunderbirds and Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.

Lot 99 original Robert Tyndall illustration

If you marvel over Blyton’s literary creations, why not take an imaginary trip to Toytown with an original Robert Tyndall watercolour of Noddy and his buddy Big Ears (Lot 99) Tyndall lived in Hove and, like Marwood, was trained at the prestigious Harrow School of Art before illustrating Roberta Leigh’s The Adventures of Twizzle and the Larry the Lamb series. It was only after the death of Harmsen Van Der Beek, Noddy’s original illustrator, that Tyndall got his chance in 1953 to draw this charming Blyton character. For Noddy’s 60th birthday in 2009, Tyndall collaborated with Blyton’s granddaughter Sophie Smallwood to produce the first Noddy book since 1963, ‘Noddy and the Farmyard Muddle’.

Lot 97 original Barbara Vernon Bailey illustration

If a jolly jape to Toyland isn’t for you, perhaps the fluffy delights of Bunnykins are more up your street? Unlike Thomas and Noddy, the creation of Bunnykins stemmed from the imagination of one woman, Barbara Vernon Bailey. Some may find these rabbits whimsical; others might find merit in their depictions of nostalgic close-knit family life. What can be certain, however, is their great wit and character. Most familiar with ceramics will recognise the popular Royal Doulton Bunnykins figures [lot 1512], but more unusual are Vernon Bailey’s original watercolours, of which there are a choice of two available in our Fine Art December auction. Just try resisting the charms of leapfrogging rabbits (Lot 97) and an animal delivery service where a sparrow distributes the post to a rabbit in his top-floor treehouse apartment (Lot 98). What could be more magical than the thought of Sister Barbara, a nun-artist from Haywards Heath, drawing and painting by candlelight rabbits cooking, dancing and kissing under the mistletoe? It was these sentimental touches that make her illustrations so appealing and reproducible to the present day, not only for figures in three dimensions, but also for narrative decoration on children’s tableware.

If you enjoy indulging in a touch of nostalgia, you can also let your imagination run wild exploring over two hundred lots of collectors’ toys, dolls and games in our forthcoming December sale. While beautiful printed copies of childhood classics can be purchased in our specialist antiquarian book sales, it is worth considering the other objects of art and material culture they inspire to enrich any home or collection.


Winnie-the-Pooh’s 90th Birthday!

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 17 2016
A collection of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends Royal Doulton figures

A collection of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends Royal Doulton figures

That fine Sussex Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, has just celebrated his 90th Birthday – not bad for a bear stuffed with fluff. ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ was first published ninety years ago, in 1926, by Methuen & Co. Ltd.

One of the greatest pleasures of life must surely be the returning to the familiar and humorous tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. These fond and witty stories of the adventures of a bear of little brain and his friends, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo, reach across the generations. Milne never compromised in his use of vocabulary or language believing that children were always up to the challenge. It is the richness and quality of his prose and poetry which allows his writing to continue to delight children and adults alike.

A first edition of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ published by Methuen & Co. Ltd in 1926

A first edition of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ published by Methuen in 1926

A.A. Milne’s wonderful stories and E.H. Shepard’s iconic illustrations have proved timeless. Both author and illustrator lived in Sussex. In 1925, A.A. Milne purchased Cotchford Farm on the edge of Hartfield, East Sussex; the year before ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ was first published. The surrounding Ashdown Forest would provide the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood where Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures are set. E.H. Shepard lived at Lodsworth near Petworth, West Sussex.

Initially Milne was not sure that Shepard was the right illustrator for his stories. Published in 1924, ‘When We Were Very Young’ was an anthology of children’s poetry and became an instant bestseller. Milne acknowledged the contribution of Shepard’s illustrations to this success by arranging for the illustrator to receive a share of the royalties. It was an association which would endure. Their work formed the basis for Walt Disney’s film based on ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.

The first adventures were bedtime stories told by A. A. Milne to his son, Christopher.

E.H. Shepard based his depiction of Winnie-the-Pooh on his own son’s teddy bear called Growler. However, Piglet, Eeyore and Rabbit were all based on toys in Christopher’s nursery. A trip to Harrods toy department by Milne provided Kanga and Roo.

If we asked Winnie-the-Pooh the secret to his longevity he would, no doubt, put it down to a ‘smackerel’ of Honey. But I think it is the rich, believable characters and the fond telling of humorous adventures about our beloved Pooh which have caused him to endure.

A Royal Doulton ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ figure group 'A Party For Me? How Grand!'

A Royal Doulton ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ figure group 'A Party For Me? How Grand!'

First editions of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ often surface at Toovey’s in the specialist book sales and realise hundreds of pounds. The Royal Doulton Winnie-the-Pooh figures represent exceptional value for fans of this Sussex Bear, especially at auction. To find out more contact Toovey’s on 01903 891955.

And if a first edition is beyond your purse why not treat yourself to the BBC Radio Collection CD with Alan Bennett reading ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’. The voices he lends to these well-known characters and his gentle, fond tone are perfect. The twists and turns of these familiar stories are delivered with perfect timing – Alan Bennett’s telling of them is quite marvellous.

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.


Mine’s a pint!

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 04 2016
Simon Lay and Rupert Toovey at The George at Burpham

Simon Lay and Rupert Toovey at The George at Burpham

This week I’m reflecting on one of Pallant House Gallery’s latest exhibitions ‘Prints for the Pub: Guinness Lithographs’ with my old friend, Simon Lay, at the award winning pub, The George at Burpham, near Arundel.

As he approaches the bar I call out “Mine’s a Pint!” Simon dutifully returns with two beautifully poured pints of Guinness, they keep an excellent cellar at The George at Burpham, and we begin to discuss this joyful exhibition.

I explain how in the middle part of the 20th century a quiet revolution took place where the auto-lithographic print became recognised as a popular art form – it represented the democratisation of art, especially in the post-war era.

Bernard Cheese – ‘A Fisherman’s Story’ © Chloe, Joanna and Sarah Cheese

Bernard Cheese – ‘A Fisherman’s Story’ © Chloe, Joanna and Sarah Cheese

After the slump of the 1930s and the Second World War there was a movement to give legitimacy to the voices of the working classes which, in art terms, required a return to a form of social realism. The movement began with the Contemporary Lithographs (1937-1938) but it was the success of the Post Office Marketing prints which, in 1934, led the Department of Education to persuade them to provide a free periodic issue to schools. They were advised by Kenneth Clark, the then Director of the National Gallery, and the leading Art Critic, Clive Bell. A number of leading British artists produced work for the project. It is a measure of their success that 20,000 schools applied for prints.

Edward Ardizzone – ‘The Fattest Woman in the World’ © The Artist’s Estate

Edward Ardizzone – ‘The Fattest Woman in the World’ © The Artist’s Estate

The subjects of the Guinness prints on show at Pallant House reflect many of the same themes. They were launched in 1956 and each illustrated a record from the Guinness Book of World Records. They were intended to be hung in pubs to promote Guinness and their new record book. Once again many leading British artists were involved.

Ronald Glendening – ‘Cycle Racing’ © The Artist’s Estate

Ronald Glendening – ‘Cycle Racing’ © The Artist’s Estate

Our conversation turns to the prints and the delight to be found in their witty subjects and observations. Simon and I have heard many a tall story in the pub over the years; recalling Bernard Cheese’s ‘A Fisherman’s Story’ causes us to smile. Edward Ardizzone’s fond but rather politically incorrect print, ‘The Fattest Woman in the World’, gives a window onto a scene now long past. In contrast Ronald Glendening’s ‘Cycle Racing’ with its velodrome and speeding cyclists seems very contemporary.

Simon remarks how this art seems to be very much about community. I agree. He explains that these values have a great resonance for The George at Burpham. The pub was saved for the community by Simon and his partners, David King and Bill Tustin who have turned it into an award winning success. This success is built on the quality of its welcome, a great cellar and fine pub cooking. It is supported by people from the local community and across the county. Simon concludes “The George at Burpham will continue to be at the heart of our village life, owned and run for and by members of our local community.”

Now that winter is drawing in what could be a more perfect outing than a visit to Pallant House Gallery followed by lunch or supper at The George at Burpham.

‘Prints for the Pub: Guinness Lithographs’ runs at Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ, until 15th January 2017. Thanks to the generosity of sponsors De’Longhi entrance to this joyful exhibition is free. For more information telephone 01243 774557.

To find out more about The George at Burpham, Burpham, BN18 9RR, go to www.georgeatburpham.co.uk, or telephone 01903 883131 to book your table. It’s a great place to stop and rest with your copy of the West Sussex Gazette!

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.