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.

Tate Gallery Curator Opens Horsham’s Festival of Watercolours

Alison Smith, Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
Alison Smith, Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

‘In Pursuit of the Watercolours’ is at the centre of a festival celebrating British watercolour painting at the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition was opened by the Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, Alison Smith, in the company of Horsham District Council Chairman, Christian Mitchell and a large gathering of art lovers.

As I reported last week the museum has recently changed its collecting policy and 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 significance.

The project will require the continued patronage of The Friends of Horsham Museum, as well as collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions, in order to acquire watercolours. Toovey’s have already donated work.

From left to right: Jonathan Chowen, Nicholas Toovey, Christian Mitchell and Jeremy Knight
From left to right: Jonathan Chowen, Nicholas Toovey, Christian Mitchell and Jeremy Knight

Tate Curator, Alison Smith, expressed her delight to find important watercolourists like J.M.W. Turner, Francis Wheatley, Thomas Rowlandson, John Varley and John Piper represented in an exhibition at Horsham. She praised the Horsham District Council (HDC) for its support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, offering particular thanks to HDC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, Jonathan Chowen, and Curator, Jeremy Knight. Alison went on to acknowledge the ‘enormous’ contribution made by picture specialist, Nicholas Toovey, to the exhibition and catalogue, as well as Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers long term support of the Museum. She concluded by wishing the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery every success in forming its new watercolour collection.

Dudley Hardy (1867-1922) – ‘The Bird Fanciers’, watercolour, loaned from a private collection
Dudley Hardy (1867-1922) – ‘The Bird Fanciers’, watercolour, loaned from a private collection

The domestic scale and subtle nature of many English watercolours are particularly suited to the British temperament, sensibilities and weather. But watercolour offers artists a depth of colour too. Watercolourists have often recorded the world at home and abroad. During the 19th century there was an increasing interest in the exotic, especially the art, architecture and culture of North Africa, Arabia and the Middle East. Art reflecting these subjects is now known as ‘orientalism’. Dudley Hardy produced many orientalist works and my eye is taken by his watercolour ‘The Bird Fanciers’ which is a prime example of the genre. Here Hardy fuses the compositional elements of his father, Thomas Bush Hardy, with the exotic landscape, costume and colours of Algiers.

Whilst the exhibition centres on the Golden Age of watercolour painting in Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries it also has work from the 17th to the 21st century including paintings by leading contemporary watercolourist, Gordon Rushmer. Gordon is holding a series of masterclasses at the museum to support the festival and collection.

Toovey’s picture specialist, Nicholas Toovey, will be at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE, between 10am and 12noon, this Saturday, 1st October 2016. He will be sharing his passion for the British watercolour and offering free valuations on your pictures. Come and discover whether your watercolour is actually by a famous artist!

To support the building of this important new collection of watercolours 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 will know that they have helped the Museum as well.

The accompanying catalogue provides a marvellous introduction and insight to the delights of British watercolours. To find out more about ‘In Pursuit of the Watercolour’ exhibition and events in the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s Festival of Watercolours 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

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.

Victorian Watercolours

‘Genoa’ painted by Charles Rowbotham
‘Genoa’ painted by Charles Rowbotham

Leading English watercolourists from the 18th and 19th Century have seen a revival in prices over recent years. Demand for watercolours by artists like Paul Sandby, Thomas Girtin and John Sell Cotman have followed the trend set by J.M.W. Turner and John Constable.

In comparison prices for Victorian artists following in the English watercolour tradition remain accessible providing a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire work of exceptional quality.

Watercolours possess a spontaneity and vitality created by the medium. The best Victorian artists applied layered washes without forfeiting the luminous transparency. Colours merge delicately with one another creating a sense of movement and life in the image.

Take for example Charles Edmund Rowbotham (1858-1921) who lived for a time at Steyning and Brighton. His watercolour, ‘Near Bramber, Sussex’, was shown at the Royal Society of Artists. He followed in the artistic tradition of his father and grandfather beginning his career by painting figures in his father’s landscapes. Charles Rowbotham married in 1884. He went on a series of sketching tours with his wife in the French Riviera, Switzerland, and Italy. It was during this period that he produced his best work which included watercolours like the scene titled ‘Genoa’ shown here. His penchant for blue with white heightening is apparent in this small jewel like picture.

‘Catalina, Lake Maggiore' by Myles Birket Foster
‘Catalina, Lake Maggiore' by Myles Birket Foster

Over the county border in Witley near Godalming, Surrey, the artist Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) had built a house which was decorated and furnished in the Arts and Crafts taste influenced by his friends Edward Burne Jones and William Morris. Many of the paintings in his home were by Burne Jones, whilst the furnishings came from Morris and Co. Birket Foster painted romanticised views of the English countryside particularly in Surrey. Before coming to Surrey he had toured widely including Italy. The watercolour, ‘Catalina, Lake Maggiore’, shown here shows the delicacy and detail of Birket Foster’s work.

Helen Allingham’s watercolour, ‘Still Life Study of Flowers in a Vase’
Helen Allingham’s watercolour, ‘Still Life Study of Flowers in a Vase’

Helen Allingham (1848-1926), another Surrey artist, painted the beautiful still life. As a watercolourist she became famous for her depictions of figures, gardens and cottages in an articulation of the rural idyll. Still life studies were often painted by women artists at this date, though not commonly by Allingham. There is a vitality in her depiction of the vase and flowers which appears contemporary to our eyes.

Values at auction for pictures like these range from high hundreds into the low thousands. All these pictures have recently been sold in Toovey’s select paintings auctions at their Washington salerooms. If you are considering the sale of your pictures, or are keen to collect, contact Toovey’s Fine Art specialist, Nicholas Toovey, for advice by telephoning 01903 891955 or email auctions@tooveys.com.

William Stephen Coleman, a Horsham Artist

William Stephen Coleman - Mother and Child feeding Ducks, watercolour and gouache, signed and dated 1901

The artist William Stephen Coleman (1829-1904) was born in Horsham in 1829.

He was destined to be a physician and surgeon like his father. However, his mother came from an artistic family and William demonstrated a talent for drawing becoming a painter and illustrator.

He delighted in natural history illustrating and publishing a series of books on the subject. His sister Rebecca helped him in the preparation of his woodblocks. Coleman collaborated on numerous books including British Ferns by Thomas Moore. The two volume octavo edition, shown here with two other volumes of similar interest, sold in a Toovey’s specialist book auction for £100.

His watercolours often depict figures in landscapes in the manner of Birkett Foster. The timeless scene painted here shows a mother and child feeding ducks beside a pond. The brushwork is delicate and free. The wild flowers are picked out amongst the bracken and are framed by the copse in the distance. It realised £600 at Toovey’s recent fine picture sale.

William Stephen Coleman - Young Woman seated on a Step, sepia etching, signed in pencil

As well as landscapes Coleman also painted pretty figure subjects in the classical taste like the charming, stylized study of a cherubic child in a tree. The graphic qualities of this Victorian artist and illustrator are apparent in the restricted palette and pen and ink outlines. It was sold for £300.

Whilst the subject of the sepia etching is typical of the artist his prints are less sought after by today’s collectors even though they are rarer. This in part reflects the relatively conservative nature of the fine art market. Specialist dealers and collectors will always pay a premium for work that reflects what an artist is well known for. This was reflected in the £140 paid for this charming etching.

An art pottery circular charger in the aesthetic manner, circa 1878, painted in the style of William Stephen Coleman

William Stephen Coleman designed naturalistic decoration for the ceramic manufacturer, Minton’s. In 1871 Minton’s Art Pottery Studio was set up in Kensington Gore, London, under the direction of Coleman. Pottery and tiles were individually hand painted. The studio was short lived. It burnt down in 1875 and the devastating fire resulting in its closure.

The art pottery circular charger dates from 1878 and is painted in the style of William Stephen Coleman and shows the influence of the Aesthetic Movement. The head and shoulders portrait of an elegant lady wearing a hat is brought to life by the background of sunflowers. It realised £160.

Work by Victorian romantic artists like William Stephen Coleman have been out of favour but there are signs that prices might be firming and on the move. Perhaps now is the time for collectors to discover anew the qualities of these 19th century painters whilst prices remain accessible – at least for the moment!

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 16th September 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.