David Bomberg at Pallant House

David Bomberg, Ju - Jitsu, circa 1913, Tate © Tate, London 2017
David Bomberg, Ju – Jitsu, circa 1913, Tate © Tate, London 2017

Pallant House Gallery’s latest exhibition, Introducing Bomberg: A Master of British Art, provides the first large scale reassessment of this neglected British artist’s work in more than a decade. It considers the overarching influence of David Bomberg’s Jewish identity on his painting as he journeyed from radical abstraction to expressive, painterly realism.

The exhibition is the inspiration of Ben Uri Gallery curators, Sarah MacDougall and Rachel Dickson. It brings together work from the collections of Pallant House Gallery, The Ben Uri Gallery, Tate and others.

The show has a strong chronological narrative which places Bomberg’s paintings firmly in the context of his life and the times in which he lived.

David Bomberg was born in Birmingham in 1890. His parents were Polish-Jewish immigrants. He spent his formative years in London’s East End. There he worked alongside his fellow Jewish ‘Whitechapel artists’, Mark Gertler, Jacob Kramer, Clare Winsten and the poet-painter Isaac Rosenberg.

Bomberg studied at evening classes under the Camden Town Group leader, Walter Sickert, before attending the Slade. He was considered an innovative artist.

Bomberg was connected with the European artistic avant-garde. In 1914, together with the sculptor Jacob Epstein, he curated a Jewish section at the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s exhibition ‘Twentieth Century Art: A Review of the Modern Movement’. The abstract, Ju-Jitsu, illustrates the influence of European artists work and brilliantly captures Bomberg’s own fractured experience of life as the son of Polish immigrants.

David Bomberg, Ghetto Theatre, 1920, Ben Uri Collection © Ben Uri Gallery and Museum
David Bomberg, Ghetto Theatre, 1920, Ben Uri Collection © Ben Uri Gallery and Museum

Although Bomberg always distanced himself from them the influence of the English Vorticist movement can be seen in Ghetto Theatre. The vorticist’s cubist fragmentation of reality, with its hard edged imagery derived from the machine and urban environment, is apparent in the lines of seated figures and the austere theatre architecture. The painting also reflects the mood of the artist after his experiences in the trenches of the First World War.

In 1923 Bomberg travelled to Jerusalem where he painted topographically. Working en plein air he painted a series of realist landscapes including Jerusalem city.

David Bomberg, Ronda Bridge, 1935, Pallant House Gallery © The Estate of David Bomberg
David Bomberg, Ronda Bridge, 1935, Pallant House Gallery © The Estate of David Bomberg

In 1929 he visited Spain and would return in 1934/1935. These visits inspired a new vigour in his work. His oil Ronda Bridge depicts the gorge and crossing. It is dramatically portrayed, alive with movement. The heat and light of the scene is conveyed in his bold, expressive brushwork and use of colour. This phase of his work was curtailed by the tragic onset of the Spanish Civil War.

In the 1930s and 1940s Bomberg painted a series of searching self-portraits. These and a number of studies of his friends display an extraordinary intensity. The show concludes with Bomberg’s moving Last Self-Portrait from 1956, the year before he died.

The exhibition provides a strong and insightful narrative to accompany Bomberg’s visually striking work. That it redresses our understanding of this important British – Jewish artist, whose work was often overlooked during his own lifetime, is to be commended. Introducing Bomberg: A Master of British Art runs until 4th February 2018. For more information visit www.pallant.org.uk or telephone 01243 774557.

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.

John Minton Retrospective

Illustration from Time was Away: A Notebook in Corsica, by John Minton and Alan Ross, published by John Lehmann Ltd, 1947, pen and ink on paper © Royal College of Art
Illustration from Time was Away: A Notebook in Corsica, by John Minton and Alan Ross, published by John Lehmann Ltd, 1947, pen and ink on paper © Royal College of Art

A retrospective of the British Neo-Romantic artist, John Minton, has recently opened at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester to mark the centenary of the artist’s birth.

The exhibition has been curated by Pallant House Gallery Director, Simon Martin, and art historian and author, Frances Spalding. It highlights how John Minton’s art is inseparably bound up with his life. The work holds in tension what Simon Martin describes as ‘an atmosphere of poetic melancholy [and]…an exuberant joie-de-vivre’. Minton was at once an extrovert at ease in the company of his contemporaries but also suffered from periods of introspective self-doubt. Minton’s sensitivity, self-doubt and introspection are poignantly captured in the portrait of him by his friend Lucien Freud. Freud’s portrait is one of the highlights of the show.

John Minton was part of a group of British Neo-Romantic artists. He is perhaps best remembered as the illustrator of Elizabeth David’s revolutionary cookery books on French and Mediterranean cuisine. Minton gave post-war austerity Britain a glimpse of the foreign and exotic through his illustrations and paintings. Take for example the beautifully conceived illustration for Alan Ross’ Corsican travel memoir, Time Was Away. It depicts a contemplative male figure seated on a quay. The artist draws the viewer’s eye beyond the introspective youth to the boats and town beyond. These vignettes are united within the composition by the bold use of light and colour.

John Minton, Jamaican Village, 1951, oil on canvas, private collection, photograph © 2016 Christie's Images Limited/ Bridgeman Images © Royal College of Art
John Minton, Jamaican Village, 1951, oil on canvas, private collection, photograph © 2016 Christie’s Images Limited/ Bridgeman Images © Royal College of Art

Jamaican Village has not been seen since it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1951. The heat of the Jamaican night is richly articulated in the artist’s use of colour. John Minton explained that in this painting he sought to give a sense of disquiet in response to something unknown and impending. This large decorative canvas is certainly atmospheric but lacks this sense of foreboding. There is however a stillness and poignancy to the silent figures caught up in their own thoughts as they stand framed by the moonlight and electric lights.

John Minton, Portrait of David Tindle as a Boy, 1952, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © Royal College of Art
John Minton, Portrait of David Tindle as a Boy, 1952, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © Royal College of Art

The beauty, strength and vulnerability in John Minton’s portraits reflects something of the artist’s character and life. In a period when homosexuality was not accepted by British society Minton’s sexuality, at times, left him conflicted. This tension is reflected in many of his paintings and especially his portraits. His study of the artist David Tindle illustrates this and is filled with poetic melancholy and emotional intensity. Minton would tragically commit suicide in 1957 at the age of just thirty-nine, the same year as the Wolfenden Report was published recommending the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

John Minton’s work displays an emotional intensity born out of the contradicting stresses between his often vivid social life and his introspection and self-doubt. I am delighted that Toovey’s and De’Longhi are amongst the headline sponsors of this timely exhibition. John Minton: A Centenary runs at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester throughout the summer until 1st October 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.

Horsham’s Art Gallery Attracts National Attention

Christian Mitchell, Nicholas Toovey, Rosa Sepple., PRI, Robin Hazelwood., PPRI, and Jeremy Knight at the opening of the RI: Now 17 watercolour exhibition

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, Now 17 summer exhibition is currently on show at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RI) rarely holds exhibitions outside London and this show highlights the growing reputation of Horsham’s exceptional regional art gallery.

The exhibition was opened by the President of the Royal Institute, Rosa Sepple, and the Chairman of Horsham District Council, Christian Mitchell, in front of a large audience.

The RI can trace its origins back to 1807 when it was first formed as the New Society of Painters in Watercolours. Early exhibitors included the luminaries William Blake and Paul Sandby. The Society closed in 1812 but was resurrected by the artist Joseph Powell in 1831. The Society acquired its Royal status by order of Queen Victoria in 1883. For much of its existence its home was opposite the Royal Academy in Piccadilly but in 1971, together with a number of other leading societies of artists, it moved to the Mall Galleries as part of the Federation of British artists. Her Majesty the Queen is the RI’s patron.

Since Horsham’s art gallery was opened in 2010, to compliment the museum’s already outstanding program, visitor numbers have doubled making the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery one of the most visited arts and heritage destinations in the whole of Sussex.

Responding to this demand the museum changed its collecting policy. It now collect’s not only Sussex related art, but also watercolours by leading exponents of the medium. A watercolour collection of national significance is being built with financial support from The Friends of Horsham Museum, collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions. I am delighted that Toovey’s have already donated a number of watercolours by key British artists and are sponsoring the exceptional RI: Now 17 show. This exceptional selling exhibition includes watercolours by some twenty leading RI artists including works by the current President.

Charles Bone’s watercolour, Sussex Downs

The beauty of the Sussex Downs never fails to excite me. The watercolour, ‘Sussex Downs’, by RI past President Charles Bone, captures the shifting grey-green hues of the late spring and early summer. His broad but delicate brushwork gives us a sense of the fast changing play of light and weather on this ancient landscape. Charles Bone is understandably celebrated for his ability to record landscapes and architecture.

Lillias August’s Hanging by a Thread watercolour being painted in her studio

Lillias August’s watercolour ‘Hanging by a Thread’, in contrast, conveys a stillness which appears out of time. The three-dimensional quality of the light bulbs depicted is emphasised by the economy of her palette and the building up of painstaking layers of wash. ‘Hanging by a Thread’ seen here in her studio allows us to glimpse something of the artist’s working method.

These are just two of the delights in the RI: Now 17 exhibition which gives the backdrop for a number of summer events celebrating watercolour paintings and artists at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

Highlights include a talk by Art Historian, Nicola Moorby, on Turner’s watercolour technique on the 8th June 2017, and Nick Toovey of Toovey’s Auctioneers will once again be holding a fundraising valuation event for paintings, prints, books, postcards and other paper collectables on Saturday 10th June 2017, 10am to 1pm at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

This current show, RI: Now 17, is proof of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s growing national reputation. Curator, Jeremy Knight, is once again deserving of our thanks.

The RI: Now 17 exhibition runs until 15th July 2017 at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE and entrance is free. For more information visit www.horshammuseum.org or telephone 01403 254959.

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.

Hans Feibusch: The Unseen Drawings

Hans Feibusch - Study for a Mural (Diana and Actaeon), Pallant House Gallery, (Feibusch Studio, Gift of the Artist, 1997) © By Permission of The Werthwhile Foundation
Hans Feibusch – Study for a Mural (Diana and Actaeon), Pallant House Gallery, (Feibusch Studio, Gift of the Artist, 1997) © By Permission of The Werthwhile Foundation

An exhibition of drawings and mural studies by the German émigré artist Hans Feibusch (1898-1998) is currently on show at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester.

Feibusch represents a classical, figurative tradition in 20th century art which has sometimes been overlooked in favour of abstraction and other modern artistic expressions. He also has an important place in the tumultuous history of the 20th century and the revival in church patronage of art in the Modern British Period.

The Pallant House Gallery was gifted the entire contents of Feibusch’s North London Studio which included hundreds of drawings, sketchbooks and sculpture in 1997.

Hans Feibusch arrived in England in 1933 from Nazi Germany to escape persecution as a Jew. He had become an established painter in Germany, being awarded the German Grand State Prize for Painters in 1930 by the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. His talent was soon recognized in England and he exhibited regularly, often with the London Group, to which he was elected in 1934. The London Group included many of Britain’s leading artists.

Hans Feibusch - Baptism of Christ, c. 1951, Chichester Cathedral, © 2012 Rupert Toovey
Hans Feibusch – Baptism of Christ, c. 1951, Chichester Cathedral, © 2012 Rupert Toovey

Kenneth Clark, later Lord Clark, was very influential as director of the National Gallery in London during the war. He introduced Feibusch to George Bell, the then Bishop of Chichester. This resulted in a number of commissions across the diocese. One of Feibusch’s most important works is ‘The ‘Baptism of Christ’ painted in 1951 which can be seen in the baptistery of Chichester Cathedral alongside John Skelton’s font sculpted out of Cornish polyphant stone and bronze in 1982/83. The maquette for the font now holds the paschal candle which represents humanity’s salvation through the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It can be seen on the wall beside Feibusch’s painting. It is interesting to note that Skelton was a pupil of his Uncle, Eric Gill. Representations of the Baptism of Christ are surprisingly uncommon but there are notable similarities between Feibusch’s depiction and Piero della Francesca’s Renaissance version painted in the 1450s which is now in the National Gallery, London.

Whilst the murals deserve to be celebrated it is Feibusch’s sketches and drawings which, for me, reveal his true talent.

Hans Feibusch - Seated Woman, c. 1949, Pallant House Gallery (Feibusch Studio, Gift of the Artist, 1997) © By Permission of The Werthwhile Foundation
Hans Feibusch – Seated Woman, c. 1949, Pallant House Gallery (Feibusch Studio, Gift of the Artist, 1997) © By Permission of The Werthwhile Foundation

Feibusch’s study in charcoal and crayon of a seated woman owes much to the French Classicism of the 18th century.

The study for a mural in pastel depicts the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana. As she bathes she is attended by nymphs who are shocked when the young hunter Actaeon comes upon them in the forest. The tension in the composition and figures’ faces hints at the tragedy which is to unfold. Actaeon will be transformed into a deer only to be hunted and killed by his own hounds.

Hans Feibusch’s figures are convincing, almost sculptural, with a quality of mass and light. His composition and draftsmanship gifts them with a grace and nobility. They represent the work of a gifted artist whose life is inexorably bound up with the extraordinary history and events of his time.

Entrance to Chichester Cathedral is free providing the perfect place to pause, reflect and pray amongst its remarkable collection of art.

‘Hans Feibusch: The Unseen Drawings’ runs until the 5th March 2017 and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, DeLonghi, admission to the exhibition is free. And if you go this weekend you will have a last chance to see ‘Idealism & Uncertainty: Classicism in Modern British Art’ which closes on 19th February 2017. Both exhibitions are at Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ. For more information go to www.pallant.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.

Classicism in Modern British Art

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1945 © Henry Moore Foundation
Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1945 © Henry Moore Foundation

‘Idealism & Uncertainty Classicism in Modern British Art’ at the Pallant House Gallery is this season’s must see exhibition. Simon Martin, the gallery’s Artistic Director and Curator of this show, has once again demonstrated his remarkable insight into this period of British artistic endeavour.

The exhibition is the first to explore how Modern British artists referenced the past as they developed a distinctive form of modern art. It is a particular characteristic of the British that as we embrace the future and celebrate the modern we always have one eye on the past. Our art, like our nation’s history, reflects procession as well as revolution. The work on display reflects the experience of war and the social concerns which defined Britain in the 20th century.

Meredith Frampton, Portrait of Marguerite Kelsey © Tate
Meredith Frampton, Portrait of Marguerite Kelsey © Tate

Against the backdrop of the political uncertainties of the 1930s, classicism in Britain became a style associated with progressive traditionalists. This influence is reflected in the work of artists like Meredith Frampton who sought clarity and precision in her portraits.

After the experience of the Great War artists like Wyndham Lewis and Frederick Etchells developed a more rounded form of figurative art in contrast to their earlier Vorticist and Cubist work.

Ben Nicholson, Heads, 1933, image courtesy of Tate © Angela Verren Taunt
Ben Nicholson, Heads, 1933, image courtesy of Tate © Angela Verren Taunt

Whilst figurative artists like Paul Nash experimented with Surrealism their art was still broadly figurative, executed with a purity of line.

This search for purity of line and simplicity, Simon Martin argues, is also expressed in the work of abstract artists associated with groups like Unit One. Ben Nicholson’s exquisite study of his lover, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth, depicted in silhouette communicates an extraordinary tenderness through its paired down qualities of line and tone. Here Hepworth’s head gazes into the eyes of a man, presumably Nicholson, who is depicted as a Roman Emperor or god. The couple had holidayed in St Rémy de Provence at Easter in 1933 and it is likely that the nearby Roman ruins of Glanum influenced the work.

Henry Moore’s figures also express a concern with, what Simon Martin describes as, ‘classicising form’ which can be seen in the recumbent figure from 1945.

The strength of the narrative of this show is exceptional. The works are confidently placed in the context of their time and the procession of classicism in art history, re-interpreted by Modern British artists. Simon Martin is to be congratulated.

I am excited that Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers are sponsoring this ‘must see show’. ‘Idealism & Uncertainty: Classicism in Modern British Art’ at Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ, runs until 19th February 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.