Back to School

An early photograph of pupils on the train to Christ’s Hospital
An early photograph of pupils on the train to Christ’s Hospital

Those of us with children have been reliving that back to school feeling this last weekend and sharing memories as uniforms and books are laid out in preparation for the new academic year after the long summer holidays.

Shared stories bind communities together. Christ’s Hospital’s story is encapsulated in its traditions and history and preserved in its museum, art and collections. The museum’s current exhibition ‘Christ’s Hospital in the 20th Century’ charts the school’s history during the last century and has been curated by Laura Kidner.

The interior of Christ’s Hospital School’s museum
The interior of Christ’s Hospital School’s museum

Christ’s Hospital can trace its history back to 1552. Edward VI’s role as patron and founder was enshrined in a Royal Charter shortly before his death in 1553. It is said that the young monarch was inspired to help the poor of London by a sermon given by the then Bishop of London.

The 20th century saw dramatic change for Christ’s Hospital. In 1902 it moved from its cramped London site, where it had been for some 350 years, to its current rural campus near Horsham.

My eye is taken by a photograph in the exhibition. There is little sign of a back to school feeling in the faces of the boys on the train, rather they express anticipation and excitement as they set off for Christ’s Hospital Station, perhaps for the very first time.

An earthenware figure of a Christ’s Hospital boy modelled by Harry Parr, circa 1929
An earthenware figure of a Christ’s Hospital boy modelled by Harry Parr, circa 1929

Also on display is a rare earthenware figure modelled by Harry Parr in Chelsea in 1929. It depicts a Christ’s Hospital boy wearing the famous Bluecoat uniform. The uniform has changed little since Tudor times. The long blue coat, belted at the waist is worn with matching knee breeches, yellow socks and white neck bands. It is still considered an important part of the school’s history and heritage by the students. The uniform is given to all students reflecting the school’s earliest history when clothes for the children of Christ’s Hospital were provided by the people of the City of London.

Today’s Christ’s Hospital is in many ways unique offering an independent education of the highest calibre to children with academic potential from all walks of life. It is a child’s ability and potential to benefit from a Christ’s Hospital education that determines their selection not their ability to pay. The Christian character of the Foundation and School has remained a constant in the life of Christ’s Hospital for over four and a half centuries. These values are at the heart of our nation.

For more than a century Christ’s Hospital has added to the richness of the Horsham District and remains a working school dedicated to preparing young people to flourish and contribute to our society in a changing world.

Laura Kidner is to be congratulated on this excellent exhibition. For opening times and more information on ‘Christ’s Hospital in the 20th Century’ contact the Christ’s Hospital Museum at chmuseum@christs-hospital.org.uk or telephone 01403 247444.

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 Perfect Sussex Indian Summer Destination

The Italian Garden at Borde Hill
The Italian Garden at Borde Hill

As September approaches the change of season always seems to bring an Indian summer to Sussex and where better to enjoy this last burst of light and warmth than Borde Hill gardens.

This week I am in the generous company of Borde Hill’s current custodians, Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke and his wife Eleni.

The gardens at Borde Hill were first laid out by Andrewjohn’s great grandfather, Colonel Stephenson R. Clarke. He purchased the house and land in 1893. Between 1893 and 1937 he sponsored many of the Great Plant Collectors’ expeditions. They returned with rare specimens brought back from their travels in the Himalayas, China, Burma, Tasmania and the Andes. Many of these plant species are still at the heart of the collection which make up the seventeen acres of formal gardens.

This spirit of adventure is still apparent today. Eleni, a geologist and trained horticulturalist, admits that it is the gardens which most inspire her. She says “This has always been an experimental garden, a place to try new plants. Borde Hill is constantly changing and looking to the future.”

We pause in front of a new vibrant border filled with colour, texture and movement as Eleni enthuses “People love colour today.”

Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke in the Rose Garden at Borde Hill
Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke in the Rose Garden at Borde Hill

The established gardens, too, are constantly being renewed. We find Andrewjohn in the Rose Garden admiring a David Austin Summer Song rose which is a particular favourite of theirs. The colours of the roses are resplendent as though in a painting and to the fore is a wonderful carved Portland stone sculpture, titled Rose Bud, by the artist Will Spankie. For many years the gardens have been complemented by an annual exhibition of contemporary sculpture. All the work is for sale and the sculpture trail adds life and fresh perspectives to the gardens.

Rose Bud sculpture by artist Will Spankie in the Rose Garden
Rose Bud sculpture by artist Will Spankie in the Rose Garden

We come upon the timeless Italian garden. The summer clouds are reflected in the water amongst the lilies with such depth that it is as though the sky and the water are united. Andrewjohn and Eleni’s vision and attention to detail have brought new life to the disciplined symmetry of this garden. You can for a moment believe that you are in a little bit of Italy.

The lives of Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke are bound to this place and the gardens in a very personal way. Their forward looking stewardship ensures that the past is valued and preserved but that the gardens are constantly evolving and changing in a very contemporary way.

Borde Hill’s gardens bless you. As you walk your conversations cannot fail to be informed by the beauty of the place. And there is plenty to inspire the keen horticulturist whether it’s the rare species, the subtle effects of the planting, or the floral compositions before them.

Borde Hill Gardens is the perfect Indian summer destination. The gardens and contemporary sculpture exhibition remain open until 2nd October 2017 at Borde Hill Gardens, Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1XP, For more information on opening times and forthcoming events go to www.bordehill.co.uk or telephone 01444 450326.

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 Perfect Bank Holiday Destination

‘Gazer’ the raku rabbit with a herd of bouncing bunnies
‘Gazer’ the raku rabbit with a herd of bouncing bunnies

The 2017 Arundel Gallery Trail coincides with the Arundel Festival. More than 150 artists are exhibiting this August Bank Holiday weekend in over 65 venues in and around Arundel.

The opening of ceramic artist Josse Davis’ exhibition has, for me, become synonymous with the start of the Arundel Gallery Trail.

A stoneware jug titled ‘The Art Class’ by Josse Davis
A stoneware jug titled ‘The Art Class’ by Josse Davis

I catch up with Josse and his partner, Melissa Alers Hankey, in the Duff Gallery as they put the finishing touches to the exhibition. My eye is immediately taken by a large blue and white stoneware jug by Josse Davis. Its beautiful baluster form bears testimony to the skill of this talented potter. Titled ‘The Art Class’ it is wittily decorated with a nude surrounded by artists and their canvases. Josse shows me how he has painted the nude on each of the artist’s canvases from its own perspective. I comment on how these vignettes add to the scene’s playful narrative. Josse responds saying “I like to think my work makes people smile.”

Ceramic artist, Josse Davis, in the Duff Gallery, Tarrant Street, Arundel
Ceramic artist, Josse Davis, in the Duff Gallery, Tarrant Street, Arundel

Josse Davis has exhibited at the Arundel Gallery Trail every year since it began. He comments “I notice how people who came more than twenty-five years ago are now returning with their own young families talking about when they bought their first figure or pot as children”.

A display of raku ware running rabbits is sure to be a favourite with children and adults alike. With prices ranging between £15 and £50 they are an accessible way to start to collect Josse’s ceramics. Each rabbit is individually modelled with its own name. Josse says “I add the eyes last – it gives them such life.” Melissa says “Their character isn’t fully revealed until they come out of the kiln.” Raku ware acquires its crazed appearance as the molten glaze cools suddenly and it shatters.

Josse’s father, the artist Derek Davis, started The Arundel Gallery Trail with a small group of other artists. Each year the Derek Davis Prize is given in his memory. The recipient is voted for by their fellow artists exhibiting in the gallery trail. In 2016 the prize was awarded to Josse Davis.

Josse Davis’ reputation as a ceramic artist is in the ascendancy and his prices are rising with his signature pieces selling for between £400 and £800.

The Arundel Gallery Trail is open 2.00pm to 5.30pm during the week and 12 noon to 5.30pm this Bank Holiday weekend. It provides art lovers with direct access to leading Sussex artists like Josse Davis and their work. For more information on exhibiting artists and this celebration of Sussex as a centre of art go to www.arundelgallerytrail.co.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.

 

Printmaking by the Best of British

Tracy Emin’s etching ‘The Golden Mile’ from 2012
Tracy Emin’s etching ‘The Golden Mile’ from 2012

In the 20th century Britain’s modern artists assimilated the influences from the Continent within our nation’s unique artistic procession. Despite prices continuing to rise prints can provide an accessible way to collect work by the best of British artists.

Artists as diverse as John Piper, Paul and John Nash, Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden and Ivon Hitchens all worked in Sussex. They sought to articulate the British landscape, architecture and life of our nation adding a modern voice to the romantic tradition.

Others like Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore followed a more modernist path though their art never failed to articulate something of the world they inhabited.

Henry Moore illustrated Sacheverell Sitwell’s ‘Valse des Fleurs, A day in St Petersberg and a Ball at the Winter Palace in 1968’ for The Fairfax Press in 1980
Henry Moore illustrated Sacheverell Sitwell’s ‘Valse des Fleurs, A day in St Petersberg and a Ball at the Winter Palace in 1968’ for The Fairfax Press in 1980

Henry Moore illustrated Sacheverell Sitwell’s ‘Valse des Fleurs, A day in St Petersberg and a Ball at the Winter Palace in 1968’ for The Fairfax Press in 1980. The copy illustrated here is number nine from the edition of just twenty signed by Sitwell and Henry Moore. The limited edition was accompanied by a lithograph by Moore. The reclining figure was a theme which Henry Moore returned to throughout his career. He acknowledged that he was first inspired to the subject when he discovered an illustration in a book of the pre-Columbian figure Chacmool in the 1920s. The stillness and alertness of the figure depicted in the lithograph is typical of Moore’s reclining figures.

John Piper was one of the most versatile British artists of the 20th century. Alongside his paintings and designs for stained glass, tapestries and ceramics, Piper’s large corpus of prints are highly acclaimed. They record the topography of architecture and landscapes following in the tradition of 18th century watercolourists whilst reinterpreting the romantic genre.

John Piper’s lithograph ‘The Annunciation to the Shepherds’ printed in 1973
John Piper’s lithograph ‘The Annunciation to the Shepherds’ printed in 1973

‘The Annunciation to the Shepherds’ illustrated here is a large lithograph dating from 1973. I love the look of surprise and trepidation in the shepherd’s face as he looks up to discover the angel above him which has come to tell him that Jesus Christ has been born in Bethlehem.

More recently Brit Artists like Tracey Emin have been employing printmaking. ‘The Golden Mile’ photogravure seen here captures her childhood memories of the Golden Mile beach at Margate with its neon lights, ice cream parlours and fun fairs. There is a joy and energy to the image depicting this memory of a seaside resort.

Today’s Print collectors are passionate about acquiring work by the best of British Artists from the 20th and 21st centuries and the market is continuing to rise. Earlier prints, too, continue to attract the collector’s eye.

These prints will be sold in Toovey’s specialist prints auction on Wednesday 4th October 2017 with estimates ranging between £200 and £500. Further entries are still being accepted.

Toovey’s Print and Map specialists, Nicholas Toovey or Timothy Williams, who are always delighted to meet with fellow connoisseurs and can be contacted on 01903 891955 or by emailing auctions@tooveys.com.

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.

Britain’s Coast Celebrated in Art

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), View of St Ives, c.1940, oil on canvas © The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), View of St Ives, c.1940, oil on canvas © The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust

Chichester University’s summer exhibition, Coastal Connections, offers an exciting view of printmakers’ and painters’ interaction with the British coast. There is a particular emphasis on work from the artists’ colony of St Ives, Cornwall.

The show has once again been curated by Professor Gill Clarke. Art from the University’s Bishop Otter Collection is complimented by works loaned from private collections, the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust and the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

The exhibition is imaginatively hung so that the relationships between these artists and their works can be discovered by the viewer. The juxtaposition of representational and abstract images allows a glimpse of the breadth of art which would have been found in St Ives just before and after the Second World War.

Alfred Wallis, Fishing Boat, c.1930, oil © The Artist’s Estate, Courtesy Bishop Otter Trust, University of Chichester
Alfred Wallis, Fishing Boat, c.1930, oil © The Artist’s Estate, Courtesy Bishop Otter Trust, University of Chichester

The first picture to catch my eye is View of St Ives by the Scottish artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham. She moved to St Ives in 1940. Her early St Ives landscapes are painted in soft colours reminiscent of the self-taught painter and former fisherman, Alfred Wallis’ palette. There is a freedom in the way that the cottages, church, boats and quay interact with the shimmering sea and Cornish light. Barns-Graham also worked in the abstract and was introduced to the circle of modern artists, which included Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, by her friend and fellow artist, Margaret Mellis.

Visiting Professor and Guest Curator Gill Clarke in the Otter Gallery with Christopher Wood’s oil on panel, Still Life with Boats, c.1930
Visiting Professor and Guest Curator Gill Clarke in the Otter Gallery with Christopher Wood’s oil on panel, Still Life with Boats, c.1930

Christopher Wood has been described as a sophisticated primitive. In the summer of 1928 he returned to St Ives with the artist Ben Nicholson. He too discovered the work of Alfred Wallis. Wood took on Wallis’ iconography depicting the Atlantic fishing industry and coast. Wood’s brushwork appears intuitive and spontaneous. Wallis’ influence is particularly apparent in ‘Still Life with Boats’. Painted in 1930, the sea is depicted as swirling bands of light greys and charcoals with boats in the distance which contrast with the intensity of colour in the pear, jug, flower and pipe. The painting brings together the naïve style which Wood had developed in Paris and a playful lyricism which imparts his sense of new-found freedom at that time.

Amongst the highlights of the exhibition are a number of significant works including a view of a Cornish harbour by William Scott painted in 1930.

Paul Feiler (1918-2013), Boats and Sea, c.1952-3, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate, Courtesy Bishop Otter Trust, University of Chichester
Paul Feiler (1918-2013), Boats and Sea, c.1952-3, oil on canvas © The Artist’s Estate, Courtesy Bishop Otter Trust, University of Chichester

Paul Feiler’s 1950s jewel-like abstract titled ‘Boats and Sea’ excites our senses. The light glistens in this landscape as Feiler is compelled to articulate afresh the Atlantic coast which inspired him and reflect on his place in the natural world. Its heavy blocks of colours is characteristic of his work in the 1950s.

It is exciting to see Chichester University engaging with its wonderful Bishop Otter Collection of art in an increasingly assured way reflecting this academic institution’s growing reputation and confidence. Gill Clarke is once again deserving of our thanks for this joyful and evocative exhibition. Coastal Connections runs at Chichester University until 8th October 2017 and entry is free – a summer holiday must see!

For more information go to www.chi.ac.uk/about-us/otter-gallery/current-exhibitions.

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.