Eduardo Paolozzi – An Artistic Bridge Between Post War Britain and America

Eduardo Paolozzi – ‘The British Library, Newton after Blake’, plaster relief, signed, titled and dated 1995 in pencil verso

The British artist Eduardo Paolozzi claimed to have embraced “…the iconography of the New World. The American magazine represented a catalogue of an exotic society, bountiful and generous, where the event of selling tinned pears was transformed in multi-coloured dreams…” This fascination with American culture is clearly expressed in in his art. In the late 1940s and early 1950s a cold-war generation of artists in Britain began to turn towards New York for inspiration rather than Paris. Paolozzi had a foot firmly in both camps. He emerges as an artistic bridge between post-war Britain and the US.

One of Paolozzi’s most celebrated sculptures is ‘Newton after Blake’ made for the forecourt of the British Library. It was commissioned by the British Library’s architect the late Colin St John Wilson, who was also responsible for the Pallant House Gallery extension in Chichester. The plaster bas relief titled ‘The British Library, Newton after Blake’ sees the theme repeated. It sold at Toovey’s for £460. Eduardo Paolozzi was fascinated by the artist William Blake’s image of Sir Isaac Newton from 1795. In Blake’s depiction the scientist appears oblivious to all around him, consumed by the need to redact the universe to mathematical proportion. Paolozzi explained of his own sculpture that “…Newton sits on nature, using it as a base for his work. His back is bent in work, not submission, and his figure echoes the shape of rock and coral. He is part of nature.”

Eduardo Paolozzi – Bash, screenprint on wove paper, signed, dated 1971, and editioned 164/2000 in pencil

Alongside Paolozzi’s cultural icons and totems the resilience and fragility of the human person and the influence of humankind’s relationship with technology is expressed through the culture of science fiction, and robots also recur as a theme in his work. The complicated array of influences are often collaged into a single work as can be seen in the screenprint Bash which realised £340 at Toovey’s despite being from an unimaginably large edition of 2000. The geometric qualities of his art speaks of the machine in our age, and the influence of boogie woogie. A rich collage which, for him, described modernism.

Paolozzi’s prints and plaster reliefs give voice to the idea of relationship between collage and image making. The prints with their often vibrant colour allowed the artist to explore visual comparisons between music and drawing. They are also connected with Paolozzi’s sculptural reliefs.

Sussex Heritage Trust 2024 Awards Launched at Berwick

Sussex Heritage Trust Chairman David Cowan and Rupert Toovey at Berwick Church

Leading architects, artisans and supporters gathered at St Michael and All Angels, Berwick, East Sussex for the launch of the 2024 Sussex Heritage Trust Awards.

Sussex Heritage Trust Chairman, David Cowan thanked The Revd. Peter Blee, headline sponsors Irwin Mitchell and all gathered for their hard work and support.

The church’s fine decorative scheme has recently been sensitively restored. It was commissioned by Bishop George Bell of Chichester. Bell was a great patron of the arts. He wished to see churches once more filled with colour and beauty. Eternal truths would be proclaimed anew in modern art, poetry and music. More people would be drawn into the Christian community by the revival of this old alliance and renewed vitality. Bell founded the Sussex Churches Art Council. Relying on generous patrons, like the famous economist John Maynard Keynes, he began to commission work. Keynes, a frequent visitor to Charleston, was close to Duncan Grant.

During the summer and autumn of 1940 the Battle of Britain was fought over the skies of Sussex. The Luftwaffe failed to defeat the R.A.F. but the Germans continued the Blitz into the May of 1941. Against this backdrop, Bishop Bell commissioned Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell to paint St Michael and All Angels. The parish church at Berwick is just a few miles from the artists’ home at Charleston.

Writing to her daughter Angelica Bell in 1941, Vanessa Bell proclaimed that Charleston was “all a-dither with Christianity”. Large panels were prepared to be painted on in the barn at Charleston. Family, friends and neighbours were used as models. These well known Christian stories were retold in paint and set in the Sussex landscape.

Sponsors Matthew Baker of NFU, Nicholas Toovey of Toovey’s and Daniel Grainge of Kreston Reeves

Initially the project met with local opposition but Kenneth Clark and Frederick Etchells acted as expert witnesses and the scheme was accepted. At the time Kenneth Clark was director of the National Gallery in London and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.

The Sussex Heritage Trust’s work is as important today in promoting best practice in our county’s built environment and landscape whilst encouraging and supporting talented young people into careers in conservation, building and horticulture. I am delighted that Toovey’s, alongside a number of Sussex companies, remain long-term sponsors and supporters of their important work.

The closing date for entries for this year’s Sussex Heritage Trust Awards is 22nd March. To find out more visit

The House of Boucheron and The Art Deco

An Art Deco 18ct white gold Boucheron, diamond and aquamarine dress clip

Over millennia jewellery has held a fascination for humankind bringing together timeless gems, the skill of the craftsman and the beauty of the jewel. Jewellery often marks important moments in our lives, points of love, and the procession of history. Jewellery evolves to the delight of successive generations.

Amongst the leading designers and makers of the 20th century was the house of Boucheron. This French firm represents a family dynasty founded by Frederic Boucheron in 1858 who opened his first store in the Galerie de Valois at Palais Royal in Paris. The cornerstone of Boucheron’s reputation for making pieces of the finest quality was seeded in 1866 when he won a Gold Medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867.

Jewellery designs from earlier periods have always been reinterpreted and adapted over the centuries with collectors prepared to pay a premium for original pieces. Alongside date and the quality of the stones the essential ingredient is the eye of a designers and makers like Boucheron and the skill of the maker.

In the first decades of the 20th century mainstream taste gravitated towards restrained clean lines.

These same qualities can be found in the Art Deco. Art Deco was a fashionable style in the inter-war years of the 20th century. It co-existed with machine age styles and modernism with clean lines and geometric designs. Art Deco combined the styles of early 20th century modernism with the avant-garde employing the fine craftsmanship and rich materials of French classical design. The principles of Art Deco chimed with the classical but with a new and fresh expression in contrast to the Art Nouveau which preceded it.

An Art Deco Boucheron Paris black onyx and black enamelled brooch, designed as a stylized feather mounted with cushion shaped diamonds

Boucheron embraced this new style as can be seen in the delicate design of the gold, black onyx and black enamelled brooch designed as a stylized feather mounted with cushion shaped diamonds.

The small Art Deco Boucheron 18ct white gold clip’s beautifully conceived fan design is set with circular cut diamonds set off by the delicate blue of the calibre cut aquamarines.

Both jewels were detailed ‘Boucheron’ and sold for £5000 and £12000 respectively at Toovey’s.

Throughout the 20th century the house of Boucheron remained one of the world’s great jewellery designers and makers. Queen Elizabeth II had a collection of Boucheron jewellery. Today the House of Boucheron continues as one of the world’s great luxury brands and delights collectors around the world.

Sargent and Fashion at Tate Britain

Madam X (detail), c.1884 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A breathtaking array of portraits by the avantgarde artist John Singer Sargent has just gone on show at Tate Britain.

John Singer Sargent was the most successful society portrait painter of the Belle Époque. His portraits evoke wealth, power, status and drama, providing windows into his sitters beyond the fashionable facades of the costumes which he exploited in his pursuit of intimacy, notoriety and an expression of beauty which is particular to this gifted and sensuous artist. Alongside many of the portraits on show are the costumes worn by his sitters and often chosen by Sargent.

Sargent was born in Florence. His American parents have been described as cultural nomads. As children they were exposed to art and culture across Europe by the artist’s mother. Sargent’s experience of art by Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt and many other artists would prove formative.

In his youth Sargent displayed a precocious gift as an artist. His mother, ambitious for his talent, moved the whole family to Paris. There he would meet and later paint Claude Monet. Carolus-Duran taught him to paint quickly directly from his subject using a heavily loaded brush wet on wet allowing him to mix colours directly on the canvas. There is a brilliance in his fluid, spontaneous brushstrokes.

Today’s actors and celebrities wear costumes on the red carpet from the most famous designers to catch the eye and attention of society. Sargent understood this and was unafraid to court notoriety to gain attention and to promote his art. His upbringing made him a natural outsider at the heart of Parisian and London society. These bohemian qualities proved attractive to his wealthy patrons.

Dr Pozzi at Home (detail), c.1881 © The Armand Hammer Collection

Two of Sargent’s most notorious portraits are united in the exhibition. Dr Pozzi at Home depicts this brilliant gynaecologist, surgeon and prodigious lover not in formal attire but in a sensuous pose wearing a cardinal red dressing gown. Madam X captures Virgine Gautreau’s famous profile in a provocative pose and dress which shocked Parisian society at the 1884 Paris Salon. Gautreau skirted the fringes of Bohemian Paris and like Pozzi was known for her extramarital affairs. Gautreau and Pozzi were lovers.

Both portraits depict vanity and seduction. She is self-assured and commanding, his sexuality simmers in crimson red. He is looking, she is being looked at. Sargent’s virtuosity is apparent in their expressions, posture and costumes.

John Singer Sargent captured the essence of his times with a breathtaking ability to bring his subjects to life on canvas.

Sargent and Fashion at Tate Britain runs until 7th July 2024.

The Importance of Tea in the Life of the Nation

A set of four George III silver gilt bachelor’s teapots, London 1806 by Digby Scott & Benjamin Smith II

Tea is very important in our home especially for my wife. No tea no Teresa in the mornings – well a girl must have standards.

It is said that the first tea shop in England was opened in 1706 by Thomas Twining at 216 Strand in London where it remains to this day.

Parliament banned the importation of finished Chinese and other Asian silk and textiles in 1720 and this led to the British East India Company turning its attention to tea. Between 1720 and 1750 the company’s imports of tea quadrupled. Its imports of tea from Canton were some three times higher than any of its European rivals. With tea now its main import and with production rising in India the price stabilised making it less expensive than coffee with an inevitable growth in its popularity. In the 18th century tea replaced beer as our national drink. Much was made of its health benefits and the rise in tea drinking in Britain from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries was matched by a significant fall in mortality rates, though this may have just been a benefit from tea being made with boiling water thereby reducing water carried pathogens.

In the early 18th century tea was hugely expensive and an array of objects were made marking the drink’s new found popularity in Britain’s wealthiest homes. Many were made in silver like the set of three graduated rococo tea caddies decorated with C scrolls and pineapple finials. They were made in London in 1739 by the highly respected silversmith John Pero. Their contemporary sarcophagus shaped casket has a lock to keep the precious tea safe. They sold for £3600 at Toovey’s.

A set of three George II silver graduated rococo tea caddies, London 1739 by John Pero

Teapots, too, were used to serve tea in front of guests and were often made of silver. The exceptional set of four small silver-gilt classical revival bachelor’s teapots, each measuring just 3 1/2 inches in height, were made by Digby and Scott and Benjamin Smith II whose partnership produced some of the finest silver objects of the early 19th century. These elements of the classical revival taste were popular in the late Georgian and Regency periods. The teapots also sold at Toovey’s for £6800.

Although coffee’s popularity is on the rise today these tea related objects and their values still speak of the important place of tea in the life of our nation.