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.

2017 Plough Match and Agricultural Show

Robert Jameson’s steam winched plough
Robert Jameson’s steam winched plough

This week I am in the company of Rowan Allan. We meet as Rowan prepares for the 2017 West Grinstead Annual Plough Match and agricultural show, which takes place this coming Saturday 16th September 2017 at Weston’s Farm, Itchingfield, Nr. Horsham, RH13 0BD.

Rowan Allan of H.J. Burt
Rowan Allan of H.J. Burt

Rowan Allan is a partner at the land agents H. J. Burt at Steyning and Henfield and has been the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society for nineteen years. As a Chartered Surveyor and a Fellow of the CAAV he has strong professional and personal links with the rural and agricultural community in Sussex. He explains that H. J. Burt has been associated with the Society and show since 1887 and says “The show seeks to honour and learn from the past whilst looking confidently to the future. It’s a shop window to enjoy and learn about the countryside whether that’s farming or country pastimes. We keep an eye to the past so that an older generation can show off their skills and trades that otherwise would be lost.”

I

Lamb handling classes at the show
Lamb handling classes at the show

comment that it can sometimes seem that life in the countryside is increasingly misunderstood by those living in towns. Rowan responds “We put on lots of activities like the young lamb handling classes at the show. They are an opportunity to connect those of us living in towns with the rural way of life.” The Society seeks to educate and make apparent how important the vital work of the farming and rural community is to our nation. Horsham’s MP, Jeremy Quin, is President of the Society this year. It is a hopeful thing that Mr Quin clearly understands that Horsham is at the heart of a rural community.

This year’s show is being hosted by David Exwood at Weston’s Farm. David started with just a 100 or so acres and now farms more than 1500 acres. His success is down to his skill, resolve, hard work and the remarkable relationship he has built with Christ’s Hospital as a tenant farmer over many years. It is exciting to witness patronage like this of rural life and farming. David’s sons, Tom and Fred, have grown up on the farm. Tom is now working in the farming world and Rowan acknowledges the importance of looking beyond the current generation to the future.

It is fitting that David Exwood and his team have been voted the overall winner of the ‘2017 Best Farmed Farm over 500 Acres’ by the Society in this strongly contested category. It is one of many awards made by the Society every year in support of farmers.

The Society works tirelessly throughout the year to bring together, encourage and support this generous rural community and they deserve our thanks.

Ian Williams and his plough team in action
Ian Williams and his plough team in action

This weekend the ploughing match will be supported by displays, competitions, merry-go-rounds, traction engines, livestock shows and handling sessions – so much to delight the family. I hope to see you there!

The 2017 West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show is going to be a fantastic family day whether you are from town or country. Entry is just £6 per person with no charge for children under 14. For more information contact Rowan Allan at H. J. Burt through www.hjburt.co.uk or go to www.westgrinsteadploughing.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.

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.

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.

Music and Nature Celebrated at Knepp Castle

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The Bernardi Music Group in the music room at Knepp

he Shipley Arts Festival’s remarkable program of music continued last weekend. The Knepp Castle concert, generously hosted by Sir Charles and Lady Issy Burrell, is always one of the highlights of the Sussex summer season. The concert was performed in the company of The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard – artistic excellence, stewardship and community were affirmed and celebrated.

The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Lady Emma Barnard, and Mr Andrew Bernardi with the 1696 Stradivarius

Honouring Knepp Castle and its Wilding project the concert was wittily interspersed with musical references to the Sussex countryside and nature celebrating the work of this important Sussex estate.

Knepp’s re-wilding project uses large herbivores to drive habitat changes across the estate. The various cows, deer, horses and pigs affect the vegetation in different ways helping to create a patchwork quilt of habitats including: open grassland, regenerated scrub, bare ground and forested groves. The project is born out of Sir Charles and Lady Izzy Burrell’s desire to respond to the urgent need for nature conservation in Britain. The numbers of native species of flora and fauna, especially farmland birds, have plummeted over the past decades – theirs is vital stewardship.

The Shipley Arts Festival’s growing national status is apparent in the commanding reputations and performances of the musicians who Andrew Bernardi brings together.

This was apparent in the rendition of the Trout Quintet, also known as the Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667. It was composed in 1819 by Franz Schubert when he was just 22 years old. The original and complex harmonies of the piece were portrayed with a remarkable joy, intensity and passion by the pianist Maria Marchant, Andrew Bernardi, playing the 1696 Stradivarius violin, Virginia Slater, Viola and Gemma Murray, Double Bass. The work is considered to be uniquely sonorous amongst chamber works for piano and strings and was brought to life by their vivid performances.

Last year the English operatic baritone and composer, Roderick Williams premiered his beautiful and profoundly moving ‘Goodwood Variations’ as part of the Shipley Arts Festival. It once again met with applause.

Singers and founders of the British Pilgrimage Trust, Guy Hayward and Will Parsons were joined by Sam Lee. They had been on pilgrimage in the villages around Horsham to return to sing the folk song Turtle Dove to the colony of Turtle Doves which have re-established themselves at Knepp thanks to the re-wilding. Their performance of the piece spoke wonderfully of Sussex and delighted the audience.

As the concert concluded we all stood to sing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ famous pilgrim’s hymn which he called Monk’s Gate. Mrs Harriet Verrall, who gave him the folk tune upon which it is based, lived at Monks Gate just outside Horsham. The words were adapted from John Bunyan by Percy Dearmer:

“He who would valiant be ‘gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.”

Pilgrimage reflects life. It is a journey of questioning, exploration and celebration. This was a remarkable evening of exemplary musical performances. As we accompanied Andrew Bernardi the musical journey transformed us allowing us to glimpse something of the world beyond our immediate perception.

Sir Charles and Lady Issy Burrell at Knepp Castle

Thanks were rightly given to Sir Charles and Lady Issy Burrell, the gathered audience, the musicians, as well as the sponsors Toovey’s, Kreston Reeves and Henfield’s NFU Mutual Agency. But most of all our thanks should go to a most gifted and generous musician, Andrew Bernardi, whose passion, hard work, generosity of spirit and vision continues to bless Sussex.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to www.bmglive.com. Tickets are on sale at The Capitol, Horsham box office. Telephone 01403 750220 or go to www.thecapitolhorsham.com. Demand for tickets is always high so don’t delay!

To explore Knepp’s re-wilding project go to www.kneppsafaris.co.uk or telephone 07739 083650.

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.