Patron & Artist Celebrate the Triumph of Love & Hope at Easter

The St Mary Magdalene Chapel, Chichester Cathedral, with Graham Sutherland’s ‘Noli me tangere’.
The St Mary Magdalene Chapel, Chichester Cathedral, with Graham Sutherland’s ‘Noli me tangere’.

Over the centuries, it has always been the gift of great artists to reflect upon the world we all share and to allow us, through their work, to glimpse something of what lies beyond our immediate perception. The 20th century brought the shared and shocking experience of war to two generations. In 1944, the artist Hans Feibusch in his book ‘Mural Painting’ wrote, “The men who come home from the war, and all the rest of us, have seen too much horror and evil; when we close our eyes terrible sights haunt us; the world is seething with bestiality; and it is all man’s doing. Only the most profound, tragic, moving and sublime vision can redeem us. The voice of the Church should be heard loud over the thunderstorm; and the artist should be her mouth piece as of old.”

Graham Sutherland – ‘Portrait of Walter Hussey’, begun 1965, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985).
Graham Sutherland – ‘Portrait of Walter Hussey’, begun 1965, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985).

It has often been the role of enlightened patrons to enable artists to express their visions. In 1942, as bombs fell upon Britain, Walter Hussey, on Kenneth Clark’s recommendation, commissioned Henry Moore to carve ‘Madonna and Child’ in the warm hues of Hornton stone at St. Matthew’s, Northampton, where he was vicar. As the sculpture was nearing completion, Hussey talked to Moore about a number of artists he was considering for a large painting in the south transept, opposite ‘Madonna and Child’. Henry Moore unhesitatingly recommended Graham Sutherland.

Hussey had in mind the Agony in the Garden as a subject. Sutherland confessed his ambition “to do a Crucifixion of a significant size” and Hussey agreed. Writing of the finished work, Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery and responsible for the War Artists project, said, “Sutherland’s Crucifixion is the successor to the Crucifixion of Grünewald and the early Italians.”

Graham Sutherland – ‘The Crucifixion’, 1947, oil on board, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985)
Graham Sutherland – ‘The Crucifixion’, 1947, oil on board, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985)

In 1955, Winston Churchill’s last ecclesiastical appointment was to install Walter Hussey as Dean of Chichester Cathedral, where his influence bore much fruit. Hussey can be credited with commissioning most of the exemplary 20th century art at Chichester Cathedral. How appropriate, then, that Walter Hussey’s gift of much of his art collection to Chichester should reside at Pallant House Gallery.

Sutherland’s 1947 version of the ‘Crucifixion’ from the Hussey Bequest is displayed at Pallant House Gallery. It illustrates the artist’s obsession with thorns as metaphors for human cruelty; their jagged lines are reflected throughout the composition. The American military published a book of photographs which featured scenes of the Nazi concentration camps, including images of those held captive at Belsen, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. To Sutherland, “many of the tortured bodies looked like figures deposed from crosses” and he acknowledged the influence of these photographs on his Crucifixions. Here, Jesus Christ’s body hangs lifeless upon the cross, the shocking red of his blood accentuated by the fertile green. There is agony in the body’s posture, the weight clearly visible in the angular shoulders, chest and distorted stomach. This is a God who understands and shares in human suffering. Graham Sutherland, a Roman Catholic, was sustained by his Christian faith all his life. He commented that he was drawn to the subject of the Crucifixion because of its duality. He noted that the Crucifixion “is the most tragic of all themes yet inherent in it is the promise of salvation”.

In Sutherland’s versions, a generation united in their common story finally had depictions of the Crucifixion which reflected their experience of the world and yet spoke loudly of the triumph of hope in response to the tragedy of violence and war.

Graham Sutherland’s vibrant oil on canvas ‘Noli me tangere’ of 1961 was commissioned by Walter Hussey for the St Mary Magdalene Chapel in Chichester Cathedral.

The painting depicts the moment on that first Easter morning when Mary Magdalene becomes aware that she is in the presence of her risen Lord who has just spoken her name. As she reaches out to touch him his gesture stops her. The angular composition of the figures, plants and staircase allude to the Passion narratives which lead up to and include Jesus’ crucifixion. At the centre of the painting is Jesus Christ dressed in white symbolising his holiness and purity. Christ’s finger points towards God the Father symbolising His presence. Graham Sutherland invites us into the narrative at this liminal moment so that we, like Mary, might acknowledge Jesus, our creator, teacher and friend, as advocate and redeemer of the whole world.

Here we witness the triumph of hope and love over evil and hatred.

There are a number of special services and concerts at Chichester Cathedral in the coming days to mark Holy Week and Easter. For more information and times go to www.chichestercathedral.org.uk. To find out more about Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ, its collections, exhibitions and opening times go to www.pallant.org.uk or telephone 01243 774557.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 1st April 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Library Collection of the late W. Leslie Weller MBE, DL, FSA

The Library Collection of the late W. Leslie Weller MBE, DL, FSA

Tuesday 2nd December 2014 at 11am

Toovey’s are proud to announce this additional sale to our 2014 calendar, which comprises the contents of the library of the late William Leslie Weller (1935-2014), consigned from his former home: Hobshorts House, Rookcross Lane, West Grinstead, West Sussex.

Hobshorts
Hobshorts

Leslie Weller, as he preferred to be known, was born in the Sussex village of Itchingfield. His father was a tenant farmer of some 100 acres close to the church. Leslie was educated at Collyer’s Grammar School in Horsham. His rural upbringing installed in him a love of the Sussex countryside and country pursuits but Leslie also developed strong interests in antiques and the fine arts and Sussex history and antiquities. All these passions would shape his life and work to come. Leslie went on to qualify as a chartered surveyor and in later life held the post of chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Art and Antiques faculty.

Duke of Beaufort and Leslie Weller © Jim Meads
Duke of Beaufort & W. Leslie Weller © Jim Meads

Leslie enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the field of fine art auctioneering. It was his inspiration and dedication that created the first regional centre of expertise outside London for Sotheby’s. For many years he was chairman of Sotheby’s in Sussex and a director of the firm. His other interests led him to achieve the posts of President of the Sussex Archaeological Society and Master of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers. He was a keen horseman and an active member of the Horsham and Crawley Hunt for many years.

Leslie's Garden Office at Hobshorts
Leslie in his Garden Office at Hobshorts

Leslie Weller was the first chairman of Chichester Cathedral Restoration Trust and over a period of thirty years played an important part in raising more than £10million for essential restoration work to the building and artworks within, including more recently the cathedral’s panel paintings by 16th century artist Lambert Barnard. For his services to the cathedral and contributions to the arts, Leslie was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2014.

Despite his numerous achievements, Leslie Weller was a modest man who will be remembered with great fondness by his many friends and acquaintances in our local community, Sussex as a whole and far beyond.

Leslie's Garden Office
Leslie's Garden Office

Company director Rupert Toovey comments: “Leslie was a generous friend and a great inspiration to me. He supported me in becoming a chartered surveyor in the specialist fields of fine art valuation and auctioneering and was delighted when I followed in his footsteps to become chairman of the R.I.C.S. Art and Antiques faculty. It was, therefore, a great honour to be asked by Leslie’s family to conduct this single-owner sale on their behalf.”

Sussex Horsfield extra-illustrated
Fine, extra-illustrated set of Horsfield's Sussex
EH Shepard Original drawing for sale
E.H. Shepard original drawing from Everybody's Pepys

Leslie lived at Hobshorts, a fine 17th century farmhouse in the West Grinstead countryside, with his wife, Brenda, and their dogs. His library was divided between two rooms in the main house and his private office, which was in a charming converted outhouse in the garden, offering a picturesque view across a pond to the South Downs. Leslie’s books reflect all his varied interests and they were very important to him indeed. The sale features a good selection of works on his beloved Sussex, including a fine copy of Thomas Walker Horsfield’s “The History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Sussex”, printed at the Sussex Press in Lewes in 1835. Usually in two volumes, this copy was extended to seven in 1892 with about 1500 extra illustrations. Bound in deep purple morocco by Zaehnsdorf, the set will carry a pre-sale estimate of £3000-5000.

An original drawing by the celebrated Sussex book illustrator Ernest H. Shepard leads a collection of other personal effects from Leslie’s library to be included in the sale. Originally published in “Everybody’s Pepys”, this 28 x 18cm pen and ink drawing will be offered with a pre-sale estimate of £600-1000. Other of Leslie’s possessions to be auctioned include maps, a barograph, a globe and two of his gavels.

The sale is on view on Saturday 29th November 2014, from 9.30am to 12noon, Monday 1st December 2014, from 10am to 4pm, and on the day of the auction, Tuesday 2nd December 2014, from 9am to the start of the sale at 11am.

The catalogue will be available in print and online at www.tooveys.com by mid-November.

Jonathan Chiswell Jones at Chichester Cathedral

Jonathan Chiswell Jones
“To Everything There is a Season and a Time for Every Purpose under the Heavens” by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

I have long admired the work of Sussex based potter Jonathan Chiswell Jones. An exhibition of his ceramics, titled “Earth, Fire, Gold: Elemental Beauty by Jonathan Chiswell Jones”, is being held at Chichester Cathedral until 14th September 2014.

Last week I wrote about one of our nation’s most famous potters, William de Morgan, who had such a formative influence on the 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and a strong association with William Morris. He produced lustre wares, finding inspiration in Persian and Hispano-Moresque ceramics.

Like de Morgan before him, Jonathan Chiswell Jones is a master of carefully integrated patterns. These designs employ motifs drawn from nature, as in the dishes shown here with their reserve panels of flowers and fish.

Fish Bowl by Jonathan Chiswell Jones
Fish Bowl by Jonathan Chiswell Jones

William Morris famously said: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Good advice! Jonathan acknowledges the influence of the ideas of John Ruskin and the example of William Morris and says, “My aim is to make practical and beautiful porcelain and lustreware for use in the home. Making lustreware is a process of hand and head and heart; it is the challenge of practising a craft which utilises all my faculties.”

The dish inscribed “To Everything There is a Season and a Time for Every Purpose under the Heavens” draws its inspiration from that wonderful passage in the Old Testament from Ecclesiastes, chapter three, which has given such comfort to successive generations when they pause to reflect on the seasons of our human lives. The verses describe how God gives each of us things to do in his purpose and how we are to enjoy life as a gift of His Grace.

Born in Calcutta in 1944, Jonathan Chiswell Jones first saw pottery being made on the banks of the Hooghly River, where potters were making disposable teacups from river clay. He was one of Lewis Creed’s pupils. Lewis Creed was a young art teacher at Ashfold School, Handcross, who wanted to introduce his pupils to the joys of making pottery. Inspired by these early contacts with clay, Chiswell Jones has worked as a professional potter for the past forty years. In 1998, he was given an award by Arts Training South, which encouraged him to go on a course about ceramic lustre. He began to experiment with the thousand-year-old technique used by Middle Eastern potters to fuse a thin layer of silver or copper onto the surface of a glaze. This layer, protected by the glaze, then reflects light, hence the term ‘lustre.’ The lustreware on show at Chichester Cathedral demonstrates its continuing ability to capture our imaginations. Clay and glaze, metal and fire combine to produce pots which reflect light and colour, a process in which base metal seems to be turned to gold. Jonathan Chiswell Jones notes: “I am proud to stand in this lustreware tradition, with its roots in the Islamic empire of the 10th century, its appearance in Spain and Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries, its revival in the 19th century by Theodore Dec in France and by Zolnay in Hungary, and in this country by William De Morgan, and more recently by Alan Caiger-Smith.”

15th century Bell-Arundel Screen
The 15th century Bell-Arundel Screen restored to the Cathedral in 1960 in memory of the life of Bishop George Bell by Rev. Walter Hussey

How fitting that, following in such an ancient tradition, Jonathan Chiswell Jones’ work should be displayed in our timeless Chichester Cathedral. William Morris defined art as “man’s expression of his joy in labour”. There can be no doubt that creating beauty in the world is part of our human purpose in this life.

“Earth, Fire, Gold: Elemental Beauty by Jonathan Chiswell Jones” is being held in Chichester Cathedral’s Treasury (next to the North Transept) until Sunday 14th September 2014. While you are there, take a moment to go to the Southern Ceramic Group Summer Exhibition in the Bishop’s Kitchen, adjacent to the Cathedral, sponsored by Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 30th July 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Flesh and Bones Unites Oxford and Chichester

Second Version of Triptych 1944 © The Estate of Francis Bacon
Second Version of Triptych 1944 © The Estate of Francis Bacon, painted in 1988

Francis Bacon, Henry Moore – Flesh and Bone is an extraordinary exhibition, currently showing at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The exhibition brings together the work of two of the most important Modern British artists of the 20th century, Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and Henry Moore (1898-1986).

Henry Moore’s work, especially from the earlier part of his career, like Madonna and Child, carved in the warm hues of Hornton stone in 1943 and 1944 for St. Matthew’s, Northampton, conveys to me a quality of reverence, universal hope, strength and endurance. The theme of mother and child is one Moore would return to often, especially after the Second World War. For many, Francis Bacon’s figures offer a nihilistic world view; the bones of his subjects have a dissolving, disintegrating effect, suggesting an arbitrary existence subject to chance. Indeed, some people find Bacon’s images profoundly disturbing. The Ashmolean Museum’s Head of Exhibitions, Agnes Valenčak, however, provides an alternative view. She argues that it is not Henry Moore but Francis Bacon who best captures human suffering with understanding, integrity and empathy. Agnes has spent a considerable amount of time exploring and researching the body of work represented in this exhibition. Her perspectives offer fresh insight. While acknowledging the hope expressed in Moore’s earlier sculptures, Agnes says, “I find Francis Bacon’s work less harsh than Henry Moore’s. A lot of Bacon’s images appear painful but show a deep understanding and tolerance.” The Francis Bacon triptych Second Version of Triptych 1944 was painted in 1988. Agnes notes two differences from the original 1944 triptych: “Bacon is copying himself, as with the work of earlier artists. There are few changes, dimensions – a formal choice. He hardly changes the figures between the first and the second but there is more space in the composition.” The later version is larger than the original version and less cruel. The bared teeth of the person in the central panel are reminiscent of the horse in Picasso’s Guernica. The figures have a deformed physical appearance.

Francis Bacon chose to subvert the Christian iconography and the title of the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the base of the Crucifixion by identifying his distorted figures with the vengeful Greek Furies from classical mythology, who lacked mercy and forgiveness. In all this, Bacon the atheist was challenging us to remain open-minded and questioning about the ‘lenses’ through which we view the world. As a Christian, I feel an empathy with this triptych nonetheless. Francis Bacon captures this bleak moment in the Easter story, filled with cruelty, suffering, anguish and sorrow as Christ dies on the cross, attended by his mother St. Mary, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John. It is an image devoid of hope. At this point in the narrative, Christ’s resurrection is still unknown; it has not yet happened.

The Reverend Canon Dr Anthony Cane
The Reverend Canon Dr Anthony Cane reflects on one of Michel Clark’s Wounds of Christ in Chichester Cathedral

Francis Bacon’s friend, admirer and fellow artist Michael Clark continued the theme of flesh and bone in a series of works, titled Wounds of Christ. A group of five of these works is to be found at Chichester Cathedral in Sussex but they are easy to miss. I was introduced to them by my friend the Reverend Canon Dr Anthony Cane, who is Chancellor at the Cathedral. I ask Anthony what the wounds mean to him and he answers, “When I see Michael Clark’s Wounds of Christ, they remind me that the imposing Cathedral building would not exist without the particular flesh and blood of a human life, a life visibly marked by suffering. The five wounds are mapped on to the cruciform shape of the architecture, so that the very space I walk through becomes the body of Christ. Most artworks are looked at; this one is lived within.”

A detail from the conceptual Wounds of Christ by Michael Clark
A detail from the conceptual Wounds of Christ by Michael Clark at Chichester Cathedral

I am interested to find out whether one of the wounds particularly speaks to him. Anthony responds, “The wound in the south transept, the ‘left hand’ of Christ, is the one I see most often as I walk past it on the way to the altar for one of our daily services of Holy Communion.” He pauses, then says, “At the heart of that service is a story of wounded love and God’s compassion for all who are scarred and marked by life. Clark’s small glazed square [lesion], placed where it is in the Cathedral, evokes the relationship between love and pain but it also speaks of resurrection – bodily wounding and death are not the last word.” He concludes, “In the end, Clark’s work speaks to me of hope as well as suffering.”

Francis Bacon, Henry Moore – Flesh and Bone runs at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, until 19th January 2014. Agnes Valenčak’s inspiration and hard work deserve to be celebrated. This courageous and exceptional exhibition explores what it is to be a human creature through the work of these two great 20th century British artists, who speak with a directness and an honesty which challenge us. It is, however, an exhibition which, like Michael Clark’s Wounds of Christ, speaks of both hope and sorrow. These works help us to glimpse the complicated beauty of being human. I cannot recommend this exhibition highly enough to you; for further information go to www.ashmolean.org. The Wounds of Christ can be seen at Chichester Cathedral, which is open daily, and admission is free. To find out more about services and events go to www.chichestercathedral.org.uk.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 4th December 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Collage in British Modern Art

John Piper’s Chichester Cathedral reredos tapestry, circa 1966, depicting the Trinity, the Evangelists and the Elements.
John Piper’s Chichester Cathedral reredos tapestry, circa 1966, depicting the Trinity, the Evangelists and the Elements.

Picasso, Matisse, Braque and other celebrated, international artists all worked in collage. The word collage comes from the French verb coller, to stick or glue. The technique was used by both cubists and surrealists. British artists like John Piper, Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi all embraced this method of working.

The current exhibition Modern British Collage and its Legacy at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, seeks to explore the role of collage in the course of modern British art. Exhibition curator Katy Norris comments, “Collage evolves in the 20th century from a marginal process to become a central part of the modern aesthetic.” She continues, “It is extraordinary how surrealists, pop and conceptual artists all embrace this method of working.” The works in this captivating exhibition are from the Gallery’s own remarkable collection. The pictures by Ben Nicholson, John Piper, William Scott, Ceri Richards, Nigel Henderson and, of course, Eduardo Paolozzi clearly articulate the importance of collage in British modernism.

I am particularly drawn to a preliminary collage design by John Piper for the reredos tapestry at Chichester Cathedral. In his book Patron of Art, Walter Hussey, then Dean of Chichester Cathedral and famous for his patronage of the arts, notes how he chose to follow Henry Moore’s advice to commission John Piper to create a worthy setting for the High Altar. Piper, known for his atmospheric depictions of English architecture and landscape, returned to the abstraction of his earlier work for this commission. A distinguished artist with a great sympathy for old churches, he suggested a tapestry. Tapestry, he argued, would work in concert with the old stonework and the 16th century carved oak screen. He felt that the seven strips of tapestry would be able to be read as a whole across the narrow wooden buttresses of the screen with its crest of medieval canopies. The original plan was to gild and paint these medieval sections but John Piper advised that they should be left plain and his advice was accepted. In January of 1965 Piper presented a final sketch, which met with favourable opinion. At lunch with Hussey and others, however, Piper was deeply troubled when the Archdeacon of Chichester commented that there was no specific symbol for God the Father in the central section of the design. The lack of this symbol in the earlier collage by John Piper, shown here with Katy Norris, is notable. Katy explains, “In this preliminary design we see the early scheme, worked out using simple cut-out shapes, which enabled Piper to trial different pictorial arrangements.” After much consideration, Piper introduced the white light left of centre on the tapestry itself, shown here in situ. The tapestry panels are schematic in their use of symbolism. The Trinity is represented in the three central panels. God the Father is depicted by a white light, God the Son by the blue Tau Cross and the Holy Spirit as a flame-like wing, all united by a red equilateral triangle within a border of green scattered flames. The flanking panels depict the Gospel Evangelists, Saint Matthew (a winged man), Saint Mark (a winged lion), Saint Luke (a winged ox) and Saint John (a winged eagle), beneath the Four Elements, earth, air, fire and water. Woven by the Pinton Frères atelier at Felletin, near Aubusson, the tapestry was installed in the autumn of 1966.

Whether we immediately understand the symbolism of the tapestry or not, it speaks to our senses and we cannot fail to be moved on many levels. The work’s length, structure, tone, rhythm and colour have a lyrical quality, which tells of our creator God in His Trinity.

Katy Norris, Pallant House Curatorial Assistant and Exhibition Curator for Modern British Collage and its Legacy, with John Piper’s preliminary collage design for the Chichester Cathedral tapestry, circa 1965.
Katy Norris, Pallant House Curatorial Assistant and Exhibition Curator for Modern British Collage and its Legacy, with John Piper’s preliminary collage design for the Chichester Cathedral tapestry, circa 1965.

Before seeing the current series of exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery, I had not fully appreciated the importance of collage to artists like John Piper. Katy Norris concludes, “The link between the preliminary collage and the tapestry at Chichester Cathedral emphasizes that an important international artist like John Piper was working in Chichester at the Cathedral, thanks to the patronage and insight of Walter Hussey.”

I am excited that Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers are sponsoring Modern British Collage and its Legacy at Pallant House Gallery. The exhibition runs until 29th September 2013. While you are there, you must make sure that you also see Eduardo Paolozzi: Collaging Culture and perhaps wander over to Chichester Cathedral and allow the Piper tapestry to move you and delight your senses. It is a wonderful thing to reflect upon as you listen to and join with sung evensong – the modern and the ancient united.

For more information and opening times, go to www.pallant.org.uk and www.chichestercathedral.org.uk

Image1: John Piper’s Chichester Cathedral reredos tapestry, circa 1966, depicting the Trinity, the Evangelists and the Elements.

Image2: Katy Norris, Pallant House Curatorial Assistant and Exhibition Curator for Modern British Collage and its Legacy, with John Piper’s preliminary collage design for the Chichester Cathedral tapestry, circa 1965.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 28th August 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.