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.

Exciting New Collection at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

John Claude Nattes (c.1765-1839), Horsham on a windy day, 1792, Purchased with the aid of the aid of the V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of Horsham Museum
John Claude Nattes (c.1765-1839), Horsham on a windy day, 1792, Purchased with the aid of the aid of the V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of Horsham Museum

In 2010 the Horsham Museum became the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. Visitor numbers have soared, more than doubling in the last six years, making it one of the most visited art and heritage attractions in the South East of England. It is clear that there is an enormous appetite for art in the Horsham District.

Responding to this demand the museum has recently changed its collecting policy. It is seeking to collect not only Sussex related art, but also watercolours by the greatest exponents of the medium. It represents a remarkable opportunity to form a collection of national and international significance, especially as prices for fine watercolours continue to represent exceptional value for money.

The project will require the continued patronage of The Friends of Horsham Museum, and the Chasemore fund, as well as collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions, to acquire watercolours. I am delighted that Toovey’s have already donated work. The new collection will allow the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery to borrow major works from national museums, broadening the breadth and quality of its already exciting exhibition program.

None of this would be possible without the Horsham District Council’s understanding of the importance of art and heritage to the identity and economy of Horsham and the broader district. Jonathan Chowen, Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Arts, Heritage & Leisure, and his team are deserving of our thanks for their continued long term support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

‘In Pursuit of the Watercolour’ is the latest exhibition at the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition celebrates the English pre-eminence in the medium of watercolour painting from the mid-18th century to the present day. The show is predominately formed of rarely seen watercolours from private collectors and ten works from the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, including a wonderful view of the beach at Dover by J. M. W. Turner.

Curated by Jeremy Knight, the exhibition puts a spotlight on the broad range of watercolour painting between the 18th and 21st centuries.

The exhibition makes apparent how British watercolour painting moves from the recording of the topographical to a Romantic, personal impression of a particular place. Many argue that the poetic landscape of the romantic imagination is born out of Constable and Turner’s work.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), A beach scene at Dover, Loaned by Worthing Museum and Art Gallery
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), A beach scene at Dover, Loaned by Worthing Museum and Art Gallery

J.M.W. Turner would famously break free from the confines of convention and tradition recording impressions of the elemental in nature. The grey wash of his landscape ‘A beach at Dover’, gives a dramatic impression. It is a great treat to observe this rarely seen work.

John Claude Nattes’ landscape ‘Horsham on a Windy Day’ reflects something of the Horsham District’s rural identity today. It was acquired for the collection with help from the V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of Horsham Museum.

Clarkson Frederick Stanfield RA (1793-1867), Study for the oil painting A Market Boat on the Scheldt, circa 1826, donated by Toovey’s Auctioneers & Valuers to Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s Watercolour Collection
Clarkson Frederick Stanfield RA (1793-1867), Study for the oil painting A Market Boat on the Scheldt, circa 1826, donated by Toovey’s Auctioneers & Valuers to Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s Watercolour Collection

Clarkson Frederick Stanfield’s ‘A Market Boat on the Scheldt’, is a study for an oil painting in the V & A. and has been donated by Toovey’s Auctioneers & Valuers to the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s Watercolour Collection. After Turner, Stanfield was considered the greatest marine painter in Britain at the time. John Ruskin preferred Stanfield’s watercolours to his oils as they were more natural and less contrived. He thought him the ‘leader of our English Realists’.

I am proud that Toovey’s are sponsoring the exhibition and catalogue ‘In pursuit of the watercolours’. Toovey’s picture specialist, Nicholas Toovey, will be fund raising for the collection between 10am and 12noon on Saturday, 1st October 2016, offering free pre-sale valuations on your watercolours, prints and paintings at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE. A third of the seller’s commission for items seen at the event which are subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. Sellers will receive the full amount they would normally get but they will know that they have helped the Museum as well. This exceptional exhibition runs from 24th September to 15th October 2016 and admission is free.

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.

West Grinstead Ploughing & Agricultural Society Show

The Plough Match
The Plough Match

This week I am in the company of Rowan Allan who for eighteen years has been the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society. The Society is holding its 2016 Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show this coming Saturday 17th September, at Aglands Farm, (A281) Picts Lane, Cowfold, RH13 8AN.

The show celebrates our local farming and rural community with ploughing, livestock, field and domestic produce competitions. Terrier racing, livestock handling, displays by the Utility Gundog Society, tractor rides, traction engines and the Harris Fun Fair are just some of the activities on offer – fun for all the family.

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

Rowan is well known as a partner in H.J. Burt based in Steyning and Henfield. 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. I ask Rowan how long H.J. Burt has been associated with the Society and show, he replies “The Society was founded in 1871 and we’ve been involved since 1887”. He explains that the show seeks to honour and learn from the past whilst looking confidently to the future.

With people increasingly living and working in urban environments there can sometimes seem to be a lack of connection between town and country. The Society seeks to educate and make apparent how important the vital work of the farming and rural community is to our nation. It ensures that skills and development are not lost. Rowan says “Things like the young calf and lamb handling classes at the show ensure that these skills are maintained and are an opportunity to connect those of us living in towns with the rural way of life.”

A fine Shorthorn bull from the livestock competitions
A fine Shorthorn bull from the livestock competitions

I comment that I am always delighted to find how democratic and inclusive our rural communities are. Rowan agrees and adds “The farming and rural community really values the important and varied contributions people make. That’s why we make a long-service award each year to a person who has worked steadily over many years, perhaps as a tractor driver or in some other role. We honour and affirm best practice and dedication across the farming community with our awards and prizes.” He smiles and continues “There’s no harm in a bit of healthy competition and not just in the ploughing match.”

As we talk Rowan praises the contributions of all those involved in the show. He emphasises the work of all the Society’s enthusiastic Chairman over the years and not least the current Chairman, Dominic Gardner. He also acknowledges the support of the Honorary Assistant Secretary, Felicity Kensett, who is herself a farmer’s daughter and plough lady.

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

Rowan draws my attention to the Society’s Bursaries saying “The Society launched the Bursary Scheme three years ago to assist those keen to pursue a career in agriculture. Potential candidates need to be working in the Society’s area. Last year’s bursary winner was Chris Dare from Huddlestone Farm, near Steyning. It’s helping him to study at a Dairy Management Academy in Cheshire.” This practical approach is evident in much of the Society’s work. Rowan remarks “It’s important that we invest in and encourage another generation into agriculture and its associated industries.”

Rowan Allan is passionate about the community that he serves. The valuable gift of his professional skills and time to The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society over so many years has blessed this farming and rural community. He reflects their generous, constant qualities of stewardship and is deserving of our thanks. Thanks should also be expressed to Mr and Mrs Gordon Tregear and the South Lodge Estate for generously hosting the show this year.

The 2016 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 £5 per person with no charge for children under 14. For more information contact Rowan Allan at H.J. Burt via 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.

A Wealden Artist Goes to War

A watercolour, ‘Destroying Saddam’s Weapons, Iraq 2004’
A watercolour, ‘Destroying Saddam’s Weapons, Iraq 2004’

A selling exhibition titled ‘A Wealden Artist Goes to War – Paintings of Gordon Rushmer’ has just opened at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

The exhibition was opened by the Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, Alison Smith. She spoke celebrating the artist’s precise draughtsmanship, acute powers of observation and delicate use of colour.

Artist Gordon Rushmer
Artist Gordon Rushmer

Gordon Rushmer follows in a long tradition of British War Artists. There is a seriousness, restraint and dignity in the man and his work which is unexpected and humbling.

Gordon describes how he seeks to memorialize a particular moment in time so that it can continue to live in and through his paintings. He remarks “It is history being worked through.”

I ask him about his working method in bringing a picture into being. He says “It starts with an idea which can take a year to come together.” I begin to understand that the stillness evident in many of his paintings comes out of a process of reflection. Once Gordon has discerned what it is he wants to convey he works from his photographs and sketches made in the field. The pictures record the memory of a particular moment which transcends time and the purely visual.

I ask whether the proliferation of images of war in the news, on our televisions and in our newspapers, is in danger of desensitizing the public. Gordon replies “I have to find another way in. It’s what you don’t say which allows the public to be involved – to be questioning.”

A watercolour, ‘Flying into Lashkar Gah, Helmand, Afghanistan, 2007’
A watercolour, ‘Flying into Lashkar Gah, Helmand, Afghanistan, 2007’

My eye is taken by a watercolour titled ‘Flying into Lashkar Gah, Helmand, Afghanistan, 2007’. Whilst the painting is very obviously Gordon’s the palette and delicate handling of paint is reminiscent of the 20th century British War artist, Eric Ravilious. Like Ravilious’ paintings there is a reflective stillness; that sense of a sense of a moment out of time. The composition connects the viewer with the scene. It is as though we are seated in the row of soldiers. Gordon comments “They’re tuckered out with the fatigue of being in combat. It’s really noisy in a chinook. Even with the earplugs in you can hear the boom, boom, boom of the rota blades.”

Tate Gallery Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, Alison Smith with Jeremy Knight, Curator of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
Tate Gallery Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, Alison Smith with Jeremy Knight, Curator of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

Gordon talks about how his insight as a war artist has informed the huge respect in which he holds the British service men and women he accompanies. He says “You are one of the troops, unarmed, but one of their own. There is a real camaraderie. They won’t take you into firefights unless they know you’re ok.”

The watercolour ‘Destroying Saddam’s Weapons, Iraq 2004’ once again firmly places Gordon Rushmer’s art in the procession of British War artists. The cloud of the explosion and palette reminds me of Paul Nash’s work in the Second World War. Gordon reflects “In my opinion this was an ill judged war. Iraq is still a country in turmoil with little sign of a peaceful outcome.” However, this gifted artist is keen to stress the remarkable role of our armed forces, even in this situation, as they seek to make life better where they serve. I comment on the difficulties that they must face in distinguishing between what is right and what is wrong in the theatre of war. I have always admired the discipline of our soldiers and ask if this lends their task honour. Gordon agrees and explains the soldiers’ deep sense of service, fighting for Queen, country and their comrades.

The precise draughtsmanship, acute powers of observation and delicate use of colour, which are apparent in Gordon Rushmer’s studies of war, are also employed in the counterbalance of his paintings of Sussex and the Weald which make up half of the pictures in this show.

The depth and layers of experience in this reflective artist’s work is exceptional and clearly visible in this important exhibition. Curator, Jeremy Knight is once again deserving of our thanks. I am delighted that Toovey’s are supporting this show.

‘A Wealden Artist Goes to War – Paintings of Gordon Rushmer’ runs at the Horsham District Council Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, until 28th May 2016. Entrance to the Museum and exhibition is free. It provides a rare opportunity not only to see, but also to acquire the work of an artist who is represented in the collections of Tate and The Imperial War Museum. For more information go to 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.