Autumn in Sussex

José Weiss’ oil painting of the River Arun and Amberley chalk pits at dusk
José Weiss’ oil painting of the River Arun and Amberley chalk pits at dusk

As autumn approaches we look to the changes in the season, perhaps a last and precious glimpse of summer before the leaves fall. The morning dew has been lying heavily on the fields and the geese call to each other in their V-shaped formations as they fly on their winter migration. I am always excited by the fruits of the hedgerows, especially the blackberries and elderberries. In orchards across Sussex apples and quince are gathered and there is a sharper quality to the breeze on an incoming tide.

There is a wonderful sense of journeying and returning in the seasons of year – a time to reflect. T.S. Elliott had strong associations with Sussex. Writing from a perspective of Christian faith he observed the seasons in his poem ‘Little Gidding’:

Oliver Clare’s Still Life of Quince, Grapes and Berries, in Naturalistic Setting
Oliver Clare’s Still Life of Quince, Grapes and Berries, in Naturalistic Setting

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.’

The Downs are beginning to change from their warmer summer hues to the cooler greens so beautifully depicted in José Weiss’ oil painting of Amberley chalk pits, viewed from the river Arun at dusk. José Weiss was born in Paris in 1859. He holidayed and painted at Amberley where he met Agnes Ratton. They were married and made their home at Houghton. Weiss would become famous for his Sussex views, particularly from along the river Arun.

The abundance of the autumn hedgerow has inspired successive generations of artists.

The painter Oliver Clare’s technique even captures dewdrops on the texture of the fruit. The naturalistic setting gives this jewel like still life context, connecting it with nature.

A pair of Royal Worcester bone china two handled urns and covers, painted by M. Morris, after 1950 with still life studies of fruit
A pair of Royal Worcester bone china two handled urns and covers, painted by M. Morris, after 1950 with still life studies of fruit

The translucence of the glaze adds life to ceramic artist M. Morris’ still life painted on the pair of Royal Worcester bone china urns and covers. Here peaches accompany the blackberries of the hedgerows.

The seasons continue to inspire us as they did writers and artists in the early and mid – 20th century. We delight in the joy of gathering blackberries and apples for a pie. Walks along ancient lanes and footpaths in the Weald, on the Downs and by the sea connect us with the Sussex landscape.

This delight is reflected in collectors’ interest to acquire art and objects which speak into our experience of this marvellous country. Prices for pieces of this quality range from hundreds of pounds into the low thousands at auction.

Whether you are foraging for art or the blessings of the approaching autumn season allow yourself time to reflect in the landscape.

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 Studio Collection of Claude Muncaster

Claude Muncaster painting at Littlehampton
Claude Muncaster painting at Littlehampton

Toovey’s are delighted to include the Studio Collection of Claude Grahame Muncaster, RWS, ROI, RBA, SMA (1903-1974) in their June auction of Fine Art on Wednesday 15th June 2016. The collection consigned for sale by a descendant of the artist.

Lot 33 Claude Muncaster 'Downs from Bury Gate Marshes', oil on canvas
Lot 33 Claude Muncaster 'Downs from Bury Gate Marshes', oil on canvas

Claude Muncaster was born in West Chiltington, West Sussex, the son of artist Oliver Hall RA. Born Grahame Hall, he changed his name for exhibitions and later by deed-poll to stop any comparisons or confusion with his father’s work.

Lot 37 Claude Muncaster 'View from the Fifth Tee, Cowdray', watercolour
Lot 37 Claude Muncaster 'View from the Fifth Tee, Cowdray', watercolour

He is equally well known for his marine subjects as his depictions of the British landscape and enjoyed great success in his own lifetime. He immortalised the Sussex landscape in his watercolours and oils. His work is represented in many public collections, including the Royal Academy of Arts, Tate, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, National Railway Museum and Royal Air Force Museum.

Lot 13 Claude Muncaster 'Majorcan Shipbuilding Yard (Palma)', watercolour
Lot 13 Claude Muncaster 'Majorcan Shipbuilding Yard (Palma)', watercolour

Claude Muncaster published a number of books, including ‘Rolling Round the Horn’ in 1933, a narrative of a voyage on a sailing ship from Australia to the British Isles, and ‘Landscape and Marine Painting’ in 1958 on painting techniques.

Lot 2 Claude Muncaster 'The Frozen Thames in December', watercolour
Lot 2 Claude Muncaster 'The Frozen Thames in December', watercolour

‘The Wind in the Oak’ was written by his son, Martin Muncaster, which covered the life, work and philosophy of his father. In his foreword for the book, H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, wrote: ‘… I look at Claude Muncaster’s landscape watercolours at Sandringham and Balmoral and the one big landscape in oils and I wonder in hopeless mystification just how he managed to do it. It is not that he just had a talent for applying paint, he had an unerring instinct for a subject and with some sort of secret antenna he was able to sense the atmosphere and then incorporate it into the picture in a way which was uniquely his. Technique and observation obviously played their parts, but there is more to it than that. Attitude, experience, application; certainly, but in the end there is no other word for it than sheer talent.’

Remarkable Collection of Postcards to be Sold at Auction

Lot 3120 R & E Cross Newsagents and Confectioners, Littlehampton, circa 1904
Lot 3120 R & E Cross Newsagents and Confectioners, Littlehampton, circa 1904

A remarkable collection of postcards from the estate of the Sussex collector, Maurice Stevens (1932-2015) is to be offered for sale at Toovey’s Washington salerooms in West Sussex on Tuesday 22nd March 2016.

Maurice Stevens was a Sussex man. Born in 1932 at Hurstpierpoint, his childhood was spent at Albourne. Once married he moved to Burgess Hill where he lived happily for fifty-six years. A horticulturist and keen angler, he was rooted in our beautiful county and delighted in its towns, countryside and social history. Throughout his life he formed and dispersed numerous collections, one of his main interests was photographic topographical postcards of Sussex. He had a gift for identifying unattributed views and scenes and many of the postcards have his pencil annotations on the back. These collector’s notes and comments are fascinating and reveal Maurice’s deep understanding of postcards and the history of our county.

Auctioneer and head of department, Nicholas Toovey, is the specialist in charge of the sale. He shared a long and valued friendship with Maurice, as well as a passion for postcard collecting. I ask Nick what delights him about this particular field of collecting. He responds enthusiastically “Postcards give a glimpse into a bygone age. They provide one of the earliest photographic images of life one hundred years ago and how things were. I’m amazed by the number of small and remote places that were documented. Often these images will have been the first visual record of that place other than, perhaps, an artist’s interpretation.”

The Maurice Stevens Collection includes postcards depicting topography and social history. These include early aviation, motoring, railways, traction engines, military events, fairs and shops. As we leaf through the catalogue image after image captures the eye.

Nick draws my attention to a postcard of the Littlehampton Newsagents and Confectioners, R & E Cross and describes the scene “The staff are outside this Surrey Street shop. You can see the Sussex postcards being displayed alongside Cadbury’s and Fry’s chocolate. It shows the lives of everyday people.” He continues “The publisher, Frank Spry, moved to Littlehampton in 1904 with his wife. His offices were in the same street as this shop.” It carries a pre-sale auction estimate of £80-120.

Lot 3019 a photographic postcard of a steam roller at Blackstone in West Sussex
Lot 3019 a photographic postcard of a steam roller at Blackstone in West Sussex

I love traction engines and my eye is taken by a photographic postcard of a steamroller and workmen in a road. Maurice’s pencil note on the reverse of the card reveals his extensive Sussex knowledge. It reads ‘on the Woodmancote Road south of the village, W.S.C.C. Team, S.E. Sayers working’. These rare insights give life to the collection. The card is expected to realise £50-80.

A postcard titled ‘Welcome to Arundel of the 1st Batt, Royal Sussex regt. Aug 29th 1933-8’
A postcard titled ‘Welcome to Arundel of the 1st Batt, Royal Sussex regt. Aug 29th 1933-8’

Social history and topography are once again combined in the postcard titled ‘Welcome to Arundel of the 1st Batt, Royal Sussex regt. Aug 29th 1933-8’. It was published by White. This hopeful scene, with soldiers on parade in Arundel as flags blow in a summer breeze, stands in contrast to the growing troubles in Europe at that time and the approach of the Second World War. Offered with a postcard of similar interest, the two are estimated at £25-35.

A photographic postcard ‘Delivering Provisions during the flood at Bramber’, circa 1924
A photographic postcard ‘Delivering Provisions during the flood at Bramber’, circa 1924

With so much talk of flooding again this year in the news it is interesting to note supplies being delivered by boat in the postcard ‘Delivering Provisions during the flood at Bramber’. Nick remarks dryly “Some things never change.” He tells me “The card was published in about 1924 by Albert Edward Halls in Steyning. The demand for postcards was so strong that publishers grew up everywhere. Steyning had at least five postcard publishers in the first half of the 20th century.”

I have observed over the years the sense of community amongst collectors who are passionate about a particular subject, Nick confirms that this is true of postcard collectors too. I ask him where postcard collectors gather in Sussex in between his specialist postcard auctions at Toovey’s. He replies that he often attends the Haywards Heath International Postcard Fair which is held on the first Saturday of the month at Clair Hall, Perrymount Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 3DN. Nicholas Toovey will be at the fair this coming Saturday 5th March 2016, between 10.30am and 4pm with catalogues for the Maurice Stevens Collection for sale.

The Maurice Stevens Collection will be offered for sale by auction at Toovey’s, Spring Gardens, Washington, West Sussex, RH20 3BS on Tuesday 22nd March 2016. The printed catalogue is available from our offices for £5 (£7 by post in the UK) or you can view the catalogue by clicking here.

If you would like more information on the Maurice Stevens auction or the Haywards Heath International Postcard Fair you can contact Nicholas Toovey by telephoning 01903 891955 or emailing auctions@tooveys.com.

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 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.

The Call of the Sussex Downs

John Hitchens Downland View
‘March Colours, Downland View’, an oil on canvas by John Hitchens from 1970

The swiftly changing light on the Sussex Downs has always challenged artists seeking to capture the character of these ancient hills.

Rupert-Toovey
Rupert Toovey in his office at Toovey’s with Chanctonbury Ring in the distance
Edwin-Harris-watercolour-Chanctonbury-Ring
‘Chanctonbury Ring from Washington, Sussex’, a watercolour by Edwin Harris from 1945
Watercolour by Harry George Theaker
‘Summer on the Downs’, a watercolour by Harry George Theaker

As I sit writing, the rat-a-tat of the gavel falling and the rhythmic cry of the auctioneer rise from the saleroom up to my office at Toovey’s. The bustle and excitement of the fine art auction contrasts with the scene from my window. I can just see Chanctonbury Ring above a line of poplar trees. Along the ridge of the Downs, scudding clouds in a blue sky cause light and shadow to move across the landscape.

The scene before my eyes is reminiscent of the landscape shown here by Edwin Harris (1891-1961). Harris played first-class cricket for Sussex between 1922 and 1924, whilst working as an artist. In 1939, he married Mary Edwards and they lived in Washington until 1955. Titled ‘Chanctonbury from Washington, Sussex’, the watercolour drawing was painted in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. The Downs are depicted in those greyer hews that they acquire as autumn and winter approach. We sense the chill wind in the branches. But there is nothing chill about today; the Downs are a warm green hue, reflecting the start of an early summer’s day.

The illustrator Harry George Theaker (1873-1954) brings a graphic quality to his painting. His watercolour ‘Summer on the Downs’ uses these qualities to dramatic effect in displaying light, shade and movement. There is no doubt that this is a summer scene, reflected in the warmth displayed in the artist’s palette.

These two artists’ representational style grounds us in the familiar, reminding us of our Sussex landscape and the seasons of the year. However, the qualities in the oil by John Hitchens (b.1940), titled ‘March Colours, Downland View’, not only allow us to see the familiar dance of light and shade upon the Sussex Downs but also command our other senses. The painting captures the smell of the earth and crops, the sound of wind playing on cornfields and pasture, the deep blue of the ridge separating the landscape from the sky. John Hitchens, son of the famous Sussex artist Ivon Hitchens, invites us to engage all our senses, to inhabit the vitality of this scene in our imaginations. The picture is at once representational and abstract. It seeks to allow us to glimpse or give voice to what lies beyond our immediate perception, to enrich our experience of the scene. Today, John Hitchens’ works are abstract, though still inspired by landscape.

Although I travel to London and across the country valuing collections of fine art and antiques, my heart always races when I return and catch sight of the Downs. After thirty years, nothing delights me more than a day travelling down familiar Sussex lanes beneath the gentle folds of these ancient hills, visiting collectors across our beautiful county.

Scenes of the Sussex Downs like these remain accessible, with prices at auction ranging from hundreds of pounds to the low thousands.

Toovey’s next sale of fine paintings and prints will be held on Wednesday 10th September 2014. If you are considering the sale of your pictures, contact Toovey’s for free and confidential advice.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 25th June 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.