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.

The Second Elizabethan Age

A black and white photograph of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by Sir Cecil Beaton

God-willing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will today surpass her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, to become the longest reigning monarch in our nation’s history.

As I write this column I am aware of a deep sense of gratitude and anticipation. Elizabeth II has been our constant point of reference in a period of unprecedented change for more than sixty-three years.

In the aftermath of the Second World War Britain’s relative success in rebuilding was expressed in the mood of conservatism prevalent in the 1950s. This was captured in the seemingly timeless and unchanging imagery of Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony. The Church of England, the monarchy and the nation were united with the long procession of our island history. For the first time the Coronation was watched on television, indeed, my Grandpa built a television set specially to watch history in the making. Millions watched and listened across the world. The coronation service was of deep spiritual significance to the Queen and her people.

A black and white photograph of the British Royal Family mounted above the signatures of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II, dated 1957

The Queen’s Christian faith has been one of the cornerstones of her life and reign. It has informed her sense of calling to the role of monarch and the qualities of service, respect and duty through which she has blessed us all. The words from The Book of Common Prayer Communion resonate in my heart as I pray – ‘We beseech thee also to save and defend all Christian Kings, Princes, and Governors; and specially thy servant Elizabeth our Queen; that under her we may be godly and quietly governed…’ Elizabeth II still holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. In her first Christmas address she asked people, whatever their religion, to pray that God would give her the wisdom and strength to carry out the promises that she would make on the day of her Coronation.

Elizabeth ascended the throne when she was just twenty-five supported by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Throughout their married life Prince Philip has been her strength and stay, a marriage which has endured for nearly sixty-eight years. Prince Philip and their family have been another of the cornerstones of her life and reign. Like all families they have faced both joys and sorrows including the untimely loss of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Princess Diana. It was with great empathy that the Queen responded to the tragedy of 9/11 through the British Ambassador to Washington when she said ‘Grief is the price we pay for love…’

A Wedgwood Elizabeth II coronation mug designed by the Sussex artist Eric Ravilious, which captures the hope and excitement at the beginning of the second great Elizabethan age

Queen Elizabeth II has overseen great changes. The success of the Commonwealth of fifty-three nations is amongst her proudest achievements. It has maintained Britain’s international outlook in a post-colonial world. Reconciliation, too, has been a defining quality of her reign. Here is a monarch able to bring reconciliation to her peoples as witnessed in Northern Ireland.

Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign has been defined by her faith and her family, by love, service, respect, duty and courage. She has been our constant point of reference in a period of unprecedented change for more than sixty-three years.

Like Queen Victoria before her, Elizabeth will be at Balmoral today and this evening will no doubt reflect on the day’s significance with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is perhaps fitting then to end with Prince William’s reflection on his grandmother in the preface of a new book about the Queen, written by the former home secretary Douglas Hurd. In it Prince William writes ‘Time and again, quietly and modestly, the Queen has shown us all that we can confidently embrace the future without comprising the things that are important.’

I thank God that I am blessed to live in the second great Elizabethan age – long may she reign over us that we may be godly and quietly governed.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 9th September 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Scottish Highlands & Royal Worcester

A detail from a potpourri vase painted with highland cattle by John Stinton

From the early 20th century the Royal Worcester porcelain factory produced hand painted porcelain of the finest quality.

The factory brought together many of the country’s leading painters on porcelain. Flowers, fruit, birds and landscapes were painted in exquisite detail. The work that was produced is gifted with a luminosity by the coloured enamels and porcelain. The three dimensional quality of the objects informs and contributes to the richness and life of this art. They were, and remain, highly prized by collectors.

The Scottish Highland scenes are amongst the most sought after of all the Royal Worcester subjects.

A fine pair of Royal Worcester porcelain two handled vases and covers, circa 1903, painted and signed by John Stinton

Royal Worcester acquired the Grainger factory in 1902 and with it the remarkable Stinton family of porcelain painters. John Stinton junior and son Harry painted highland cattle studies, whilst John’s brother, James, concentrated on game birds. They worked alongside Harry Davis and numerous other painters. The Stintons mixed oil of cloves with their paints to stop them drying too quickly. The smell was often remarked upon by colleagues working at the factory!

John Sinton junior did not begin painting on porcelain until he was thirty-five. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Henry, and his father, John. He painted scenes with English and highland cattle, as well as castles and historic buildings. The bodies of the magnificent pair of Royal Worcester vases and covers depict cattle at a water’s edge. It is characteristic of his work that the lower legs of the cattle are hidden from view by water and grass. Dating from 1903 the landscapes are as finely painted as the cattle. They sold in a Toovey’s specialist auction for £5000.

A Royal Worcester porcelain two handled vase, circa 1913, painted and signed by Harry Stinton

The detail of the two highland cattle shown here was also painted by John Stinton. It is taken from a potpourri vase which sold at Toovey’s for £3200. It displays the luminosity of these pieces. The scene is alive, the cows’ eyes glint and the grass appears to move in a highland breeze.

Harry Davis painted a wide variety of subjects including highland landscapes with sheep. He has been described as perhaps the finest ceramic painter of the 20th century. His exceptional natural ability and remarkable individuality can be seen in the small jewel-like potpourri jar and cover which he painted in 1912. The sheep are brought into focus by the marvellous depiction of mist and light on the hills beyond. It realised £1100 at Toovey’s

Harry Stinton was great friends with Harry Davis. Harry Stinton produced highland cattle scenes. His work can be differentiated from his father’s by the purples and autumnal tints in his palette. These can be seen in the study of two highland cattle in a landscape which he painted on the two handled vase in 1913. His work is also highly valued by collectors and it sold at Toovey’s for £1200.

A Royal Worcester porcelain potpourri jar and cover, circa 1912, painted and signed by Harry Davis

Neither John nor Harry Stinton ever visited Scotland. They worked from their imaginations and postcards. For many of us, like John and Harry, our understanding of Scotland is to a large degree informed by the paintings and writings based around the landscape and culture of the Highlands. It was Queen Victoria who placed the royal seal of approval on Scotland. Inspired by the writing of Walter Scott she built her castle at Balmoral which delighted her and Prince Albert. Balmoral and the Scottish Highlands continue to delight our Royal family to this day.

The Act of Union of 1707 brought Scotland and England together to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain. There was a desire amongst Scots to uphold their cultural distinctiveness and preserve what was unique and separate about Scotland. During Victoria’s reign our understanding of Scottish identity became romantically bound up with the Highlands. Indeed, this highland myth came to express the very spirit of the Scottish nation.

Our romantic attachment to Scotland endures to the present day which in part explains the delight we take in this porcelain. But in an age of mass production these individual and unique paintings on porcelain unite us not just with their subjects but also with these exceptionally gifted artists. Toovey’s porcelain specialist, Tom Rowsell, is passionate about these pieces and can be contacted at auctions@tooveys.com if you would like his advice.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 2nd September 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Chinese Jade Prized more Highly than Gold

An 18th century Chinese carved jade table screen, auctioned by Toovey’s for £120,000
An 18th century Chinese carved jade table screen, auctioned by Toovey’s for £120,000
Rupert Toovey in China
Rupert Toovey in China

The Chinese have always prized jade more highly than gold. This hard translucent stone has, over the centuries, been worked into decorative and ritual objects, as well as ceremonial weapons.

Jade was worn by kings and nobles in life and was buried with them, affording the material a high status and associations with immortality. Later it was the exquisite objects fashioned from this remarkable stone which continued to be highly prized, connecting the Ming and the Qing periods with earlier times.

A Chinese Imperial quality jade archer’s ring, Qing dynasty, sold at Toovey’s for £40,000
A Chinese Imperial quality jade archer’s ring, Qing dynasty, sold at Toovey’s for £40,000

The English translated the Chinese word ju as jade. Our interpretation of jade is narrower than that of the Chinese including only nephrite and jadeite. Nephrite is typically white in colour. However, the presence of copper, chromium and iron can gift it with colours ranging from subtle grey-greens to brilliant yellows and reds. Jadeite has an even broader spectrum of colours and was notably employed from the 18th century.

It was an extraordinary moment when I discovered the exquisite small jade table screen in a modest flat in Richmond. It realized £120,000 in a Toovey’s specialist Chinese and Asian Art Sale, selling to a Chinese connoisseur. The 18th century panel is delicately carved with a shoreside scene. It portrays a meeting of scholars. In the corner you see nine beautiful lines of calligraphic text. On the reverse is a scene depicting a figure in a garden hut; six further figures sit beside a stream flowing from a waterfall. Jade workshops created pictures on jade, often following the themes and conventions of Chinese painting. Chinese depictions of nature are seldom just representations of the landscape. Rather, they reflect the artist’s spiritual, emotional and intellectual reaction to the natural world. It is a tradition which connects the artist with their ancient civilisation.

An 18th century Chinese pale celadon jade lotus bowl and a cover, sold at Toovey’s for £52,000
An 18th century Chinese pale celadon jade lotus bowl and a cover, sold at Toovey’s for £52,000

The 18th century Chinese pale celadon jade lotus bowl’s decoration reflects the influence of Buddhism. The lotus flower, upon which the form of this bowl is modelled, represents purity and enlightenment. Repeated lotus flowers also decorate the lid. The body has a frieze of petals each containing one of Buddhism’s eight emblems, including the Dharma Wheel. The wheel symbolises the auspicious qualities of the turning of the Buddha’s teachings, in all realms and at all times, enabling beings to experience the joy of servanthood and liberation. The bowl and cover was auctioned at Toovey’s for £52,000.

An 18th century Chinese archaistic jade libation vessel and cover, sold at Toovey’s for £70,000
An 18th century Chinese archaistic jade libation vessel and cover, sold at Toovey’s for £70,000

The term libation refers to the ritual pouring of a liquid as an offering to a god or a spirit. The Chinese traditionally poured rice wine or tea left to right in front of an altar as an offering to their gods in honour of the deceased. The Chinese archaistic jade libation vessel once again dates from the 18th century. The sides are finely carved with stylized birds against clouds whilst the handle is entwined by a dragon. This ritual object was sold at Toovey’s for £70,000.

The ceremonial Chinese Imperial quality jade archer’s ring dates from the Qing dynasty. It is carved in the form of a horse’s hoof and finely incised with an eight line text. The characters are heightened with gilding. It realised £40,000 at Toovey’s.

The Chinese and Asian Art Department at Toovey’s has been established for twenty years. Over all these years the Antiques Roadshow specialist, Lars Tharp, has worked closely with Toovey’s resident specialist, Tom Rowsell. Toovey’s particular success has been to connect its selling clients directly with wealthy Chinese mainland collectors who, like their forebears, value jade more highly than gold. Tom and Lars are always pleased to discuss the acquisition or sale of Chinese and Asian Art. They can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 26th August 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.