‘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.
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.
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