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.

Concert Celebrates the Life of Henry Burstow

Horsham’s famous Henry Burstow

This Saturday a remarkable concert at St Mary’s Parish Church in the Causeway, Horsham, commemorates the life of Henry Burstow who died 100 years ago this year.

Burstow’s love of Bell Ringing and Folk Songs will be celebrated in words, dance, music and bell ringing by the Horsham Bell Ringers, the Horsham Folk Club, the Broadwood Morris Men, the Friends of Horsham Museum and international violinist, Andrew Bernardi, playing the 1696 Stradivarius.

Andrew Bernardi plays the ‘Lark Ascending’ on the 1696 Stradivarius
Andrew Bernardi plays the ‘Lark Ascending’ on the 1696 Stradivarius

Henry Burstow was Horsham’s cobbler, a bell ringer and folk singer. Writing about his love of folk music Burstow said ‘In learning and retaining all my songs my memory has seemed to work quite spontaneously: many of the songs I learnt at first time of hearing; others, longer ones, I have learnt upon hearing them twice through.’ His knowledge and memory of Sussex folk music drew the attention of Lucy Broadwood and the composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams, who visited the area in 1904.

Celebrating the life of Henry Burstow with Dance, Music and Bell Ringing
Celebrating the life of Henry Burstow with Dance, Music and Bell Ringing

Vaughan Williams’ famous ‘Lark Ascending’ will be performed by Andrew Bernardi and members of his critically acclaimed Music Group, String Academy and Christs’ Hospital Director of music, Andrew Cleary. This extraordinary piece of music rises and falls as though accompanying a skylark’s flight in the folds of the Sussex Downs. The composer was inspired by specific lines from George Meredith’s poem of the same title which dates from 1881. They were originally printed on the flyleaf of Vaughan Williams’ musical score:

‘He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.’

There is a Eucharistic quality to the way that Vaughan Williams draws these particular lines together from Meredith’s much longer poem. It never fails to move and uplift me.

Writing about bell ringers in his reminiscences Henry Burstow said ‘To all brother campanologists and friends who remain of the hundreds with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting I offer my kind regards, and thanks for the hearty welcome and good fellowship they have always shown me.’ With bell ringers at the heart of this event you can be assured of a warm welcome on Saturday.

This unique concert takes place this weekend on Saturday 22 October at 7.30pm at St Mary’s Parish Church, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1HE. Advance tickets are priced at £10 each and can be purchased from the Capitol Box Office by telephoning 01403 750220 and from The Horsham Museum and Art Gallery. Tickets will also be available on the night at £12.50 each. The funds raised by the concert will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. For more information visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com or www.horshammuseum.org.

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.