Hans Feibusch Drawings and Prints For Sale at Toovey’s

Design for Christ in Glory in St Sidwells, Exeter
Lot 8: Design for Christ in Glory

A group of twenty works by the 20th century artist Hans Feibusch is to be offered for auction in Toovey’s specialist fine art sale on Wednesday 12th June. Feibusch had strong links with Sussex and worked in a particular figurative style, influenced by the painters of the Renaissance.

Hans Feibusch arrived in England in 1933 from Nazi Germany to escape persecution as a Jew. He had become an established painter in Germany and was awarded the German Grand State Prize for Painters in 1930 by the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. His talent was soon recognized in England and he exhibited regularly, often with the London Group, to which he was elected in 1934. The London Group included many of Britain’s leading artists.

His first public commission came in 1937 when Edward D. Mills invited Feibusch to paint a mural, ‘Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet before the Last Supper’, for the new Methodist Hall in Colliers Wood, London. The painting attracted a great deal of interest from the national press and brought the artist to the attention of Kenneth Clark, later Lord Clark. Clark was very influential and was director of the National Gallery in London during the war. His television series and book ‘Civilisation’ would subsequently capture the imagination of a generation.

Bishop George Bell of Chichester wrote to Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery in 1939 asking for suggestions as to artists who might be prepared to accept commissions. Clark introduced Feibusch to Bell and the two men met for lunch in Brighton on New Year’s Day 1940. It marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship, during which Bell would be Feibusch’s leading patron. Both men were unprepared to turn their backs on evil. Feibusch personified Bell’s deep and active concern for the plight of the Jews in Germany and its refugees.

In 1929 Bell became Bishop of Chichester, bringing with him patterns of worship and the arts from Canterbury Cathedral, where he had been dean. He wished to see churches once more filled with colour and beauty. Eternal truths could be proclaimed anew in music, modern art and poetry. More people would be drawn into the Christian community by the revival of this old alliance and renewed vitality. Among visitors to the Bishop’s Palace in Chichester were Gustav Holst, Vaughan Williams, Henry Moore, T.S. Eliot, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and, of course, Hans Feibusch.

Rupert Toovey comments, “The friendship between Bell and Feibusch blessed Sussex with a number of murals by this artist. These can be seen at St Wilfred’s, Brighton; Chichester Cathedral; The Bishop’s Chapel, Chichester, and St Mary’s, Goring-by-Sea. Painting onto the walls of churches and cathedrals requires painstaking preparation and these pencil cartoons by Feibusch give us a valuable insight into his work. The sketch for the mural ‘Christ in Glory’, painted in 1957 at St Sidwell’s, Exeter, shows striking prompts from Feibusch’s earlier works in Sussex. The ‘Christ in Majesty’, painted in 1954 at St Mary’s, Goring-by-Sea, has similarities with the sketch for St Sidwell’s. The mural and cartoon display Feibusch’s knowledge of Renaissance artists and their influence on his work. Christ’s arms open in a gesture of welcome and embrace. The figures are convincing, almost sculptural, with a quality of mass and light. Feibusch gifts them through their poses with grace and nobility. In the St Sidwell’s sketch, men and women look up to Christ with gestures of praise and thanksgiving, reminiscent of the figures in the Ascension scene painted by Feibusch in the Bishop’s private chapel in Chichester.”

While the attention of the art world moved on to focus on the abstraction of Ben Nicholson and the new depiction of naturalistic forms by artists like Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, Hans Feibusch continued to paint and draw figuratively. His style of painting has been the subject of renewed interest in recent years with retrospective exhibitions held at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, in 1995, and more recently at the Bishop Otter Gallery, University of Chichester, in 2012.

“The murals deserve to be celebrated,” Rupert Toovey enthuses. “They represent the work of a gifted artist whose life was inexorably bound up with the extraordinary history and events of his time. For me, though, it is Feibusch’s sketches and drawings that reveal his true talent.”

Hans Feibusch’s work rarely comes to the market and it is with some excitement that collectors are looking forward to Toovey’s sale. The group of sketches, studies and prints will be offered in twelve lots at 10am on 12th June at Toovey’s Spring Gardens Auction Rooms, Washington.

Below: a selection of other works by Hans Feibusch to be offered in Toovey’s June auction.

Click on an image to enlarge.