Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Raises Cultural Bar

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937), Marble Quarry, Iona, early 20th century oil

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘A Collector’s Passion – Scottish Oils and Watercolours’ is the most significant in the 2019 Horsham District Council’s Year of Culture.

The exhibition explores a local collector’s passion for Scottish pictures. There is a tremendous quality of patronage in them being loaned for the public to see.
Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Curator Jeremy Knight says “This very private collector was awarded the art prize by his artist teacher Archie Watt whilst growing up in south-west Scotland and this inspired his passion for art and collecting. It’s the fantastic colours in Scottish art which delights him.” Three of Archie Watt’s paintings are on show.

The qualities of patronage are also apparent in the collection with leading contemporary Scottish artists.

Alongside an exquisite Venetian inspired oil by Anne Redpath my eye is drawn to an important group of paintings by the four Scottish Colourists FCB Cadell, GL Hunter, SJ Peploe and JD Fergusson. They painted landscapes, still lifes and interiors, influenced by their direct contact with French Post-Impressionism and their early knowledge of the work of Matisse and the Fauvres. Their paintings were amongst the most progressive in early 20th century British art and they developed an international following.

FCB Cadell first visited the Hebridean island of Iona in 1912 and would return most summers, usually to paint outside. The cool tonalities of the work Cadell produced on Iona in the 1920s contrasts with the sharp dissonance of colour employed in his studio paintings of the same date. The Iona landscape you see here is filled with light and movement, the nature of the coastline accentuated in the stylized blocks of colour which define the composition. The effect is moving and beautiful.

GL Hunter used a brush loaded with paint, combining broad strokes with a skilful manipulation of strong warm and cool colours in the Still Life with Flowers and Fruit.

Some twenty Scottish paintings, including contemporary works, are included in the exhibition.

George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931), Still life with Flowers and Fruit, early 20th century oil

‘A Collector’s Passion – Scottish Oils and Watercolours’ once again raises the cultural bar of the visual arts in the Horsham District. I hope that the growing reputation of the Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery will continue to attract loans and work of this quality to its exhibitions and permanent collection. A cultural offering at this level lends so much to the reputation, prosperity and quality of life of the Horsham District. Horsham District Council has an important ongoing role in this and I hope our councillors will continue to build on their success. They, Jeremy Knight and this passionate collector are deserving of our thanks.

It is exciting to see such a body of work exhibited in Horsham. The exhibition runs until 26th October 2019 and entrance is free of charge. For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org.

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.

German Émigré Artist Walter Nessler at Pallant House

Walter Nessler – Pigeons on Windowsill, Paris, oil, c.1952 © The Artist’s Estate

This week I am visiting the retrospective exhibition of the German émigré artist Walter Nessler (1912-2001) at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, with the artist’s son Conrad.

Walter Nessler’s work reflects the plight of the émigré artist and the challenges of the war years. Nessler fled the Nazis and although he was not Jewish he felt an affinity with the Jews. He moved to London in 1937 where he lived until his death in 2001. However, there was always a sorrow in being separated from ‘his’ Germany and ‘his’ Dresden.

Walter Nessler – Haverstock Hill, London, oil, c.1938-9 © The Artist’s Estate

The bleak palette of the war years can be seen in Haverstock Hill painted in 1938/9. Its subdued blues and greys and the camouflage effect patterns in the painting lend the scene a surreal quality. After the war this muted palette would be replaced with the vibrant colours which were such a part of Nessler’s German Expressionist training.

Nessler worked intermittently for the Marlborough and Leger Galleries in London during the 1940s and 1950s during which time he visited Paris. His painting was inspired by the city’s artists and streets. He met Picasso, Giacometti and Cocteau. In the post-war period there was a return to a sense of optimism in his work expressed in bold outlines and colour.

Conrad explains how his mother and father were divorced in 1947 when he was six years old and the joy of rebuilding his relationship with his father and rediscovering his art later in life. He says “I believed in him and loved his work. His work stands up very well against his peers. This exhibition at Pallant House Gallery affirms my father’s reputation and that my confidence in him and his work was right.”

My eye is taken by a vibrant oil on canvas titled Pigeons on Windowsill, Paris painted in 1952.

Speaking about the painting Conrad remarks “I am confident that the bridge is the Pont Neuf and for me this is an optimistic landscape. My father had a wonderful sense of humour as you can see in his depiction of the pigeons. I often question whether the fish are in the Seine or a bowl?”

I agree, the view is hopeful and playful in its depictions of the birds and fishes in a strident palette – the outline of a cup of coffee on the windowsill. But this optimism is held in tension. The composition of the picture is divided. The dramatic depiction in monochrome of Parisian street architecture and jagged branches describe a sorrow and the shadow of war.

This retrospective of Walter Nessler’s work portrays him as an emotionally intelligent artist who remained optimistic but owned with integrity that he and his art were informed both by the joys and the sorrows of his life. It reflects a very personal journey of reconciliation and hope expressed through art.

‘Walter Nessler – Post-war Optimist’ runs at Pallant House Gallery until 6th October 2019. For more information visit www.pallant.org.uk.

And you must make time to see the exceptional and beautiful ‘Ivon Hitchens: Space through Colour’ exhibition whilst you are there.

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.

The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society

A threshing display at the ploughing match

This week I am in the company of Rowan Allan who for twenty-one years has been the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society. The Society is holding its 2019 Annual Ploughing Match and Agricultural Show on Saturday 21st September, at Applesham Farm, Coombes Road, Nr Lancing, BN15 0RP.

As this year’s serving President of the society I am especially excited to once again be attending the ploughing match.
Rowan Allan says “Applesham Farm will be a popular venue. Christopher, Hugh and Sara Passmore and their team will give everyone a warm welcome – it’s our first time there and the agricultural community is looking forward to coming together once again.”

Sometimes our increasingly urban society can seem out of touch with the land. Farmers already fulfil an important role in stewarding the countryside, practising good husbandry and sustainable food production with a deep understanding and respect for the environment and the natural world. As I have visited farms across the district I have found a diversity of approaches which fits with the land each farmer works. What unites them is that they are passionate about their responsibilities and rightly proud of their long-term stewardship – there is a quality of calling and vocation in it.

Rowan Allan, the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society

Rowan comments “Balancing one’s heritage and nature with the needs of food production is perfectly possible.”

The West Grinstead and District Ploughing Match and Agricultural Society has been holding shows for over 140 years. It seeks to re-connect town and country and educate the public.

Rowan says “The ploughing match provides a shop window for people to engage with what farming and the countryside are really about.”

I comment that it’s a great family day out with the ploughing competition, cattle and sheep shows, licenced bar, fun fair, trade stands and local produce, terrier racing, open clay shooting competitions, tug-of-war, gun dog scurry, tractor and threshing machinery and even a ferret race, there is so much to enjoy – Rowan agrees.

Since 1871 The West Grinstead and District Plough Match and Agricultural Society has been promoting best practice in the local agricultural community through its prizes and awards. Today that also includes a bursary programme which provides financial support to enable and encourage young people to take up careers in the agricultural industry.

Our landscape is one of the most important building blocks of our nation’s heritage and identity and it is wholly dependent on the life given to it by our farmers who richly deserve our thanks.

I will be supporting Rowan and the team at the 2019 West Grinstead and District Plough Match and Agricultural Show at Applesham Farm, Coombes Road Lancing, BN15 0RP on Saturday 21st September 2019. Entrance is just £6 per person with children under 14 free – it’s going to be a fantastic family day – I hope to see you there!

For more information contact Rowan Allan at H. J. Burt Steyning through www.hjburt.co.uk or go to www.westgrinsteadploughing.co.uk.

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.

Wisley Sculpture Trail 2019

A series of maquettes and the collage titled ‘Conversation’ by artist Michael Joseph.

This week I am in the company of Sussex artisan artist Michael Joseph who is currently exhibiting at Wisley Gardens as part of the 2019 Surrey Sculpture Society Trail.

As an aviator, engineer, inventor and conservationist, as well as an artist, Michael gives a contemporary expression to the ideals of Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious and other British artists in the early 20th century who produced designs and illustrations commercially alongside their output of fine art.
The themes which unite his interests and passions: relationships with others and the world, an understanding of materials and engineering, and the intuition of an aviator all inform Michael Joseph the artist.
I ask Michael about his creative process, he says “It’s a journey of discovery – of not knowing how the finished work will be as I set out – it’s spontaneous and ambiguous.”

I comment on how there seems to be a conversation between his paintings and sculpture. His fluidity of line is balanced with a strength of expression. The lines in his sculptures are often taken directly from the drawings in his sketch books as you can see in the various maquettes and collage, titled ‘Conversation’, displayed in his Morning room. Michael comments “There is a conversation between, line, shape and texture. I try to make the line as simple as possible leaving room for the viewer to interpret a piece for themselves, there should always be room for mystery. I seek to express not only the physicality of the sitter but also their emotions, their feelings.”

Sussex artist Michael Joseph with his sculpture ‘Tryst’ in Corten Steel

Michael explains “I enjoy the technical challenges of making art. I have a forge to bend metal into shape and a foundry for bronze. I’ve always been comfortable making things. ‘Tryst’ is made from Corten Steel which corrodes to a point and then the layer of oxidization halts the process – it matures.” In this large sculpture the man’s vulnerability and fragility is held by the strength of the female figure. The composition is united and given life by the repeated rhythms of texture and patterns. Michael says “In observing I am looking at the relational quality in my subject and in the work itself. At the centre of my art are the values of form, line and colour – distilling to get the essence of a subject.”

Michael Joseph’s work is being exhibited alongside more than 100 pieces of sculpture from some of the South East’s finest established and emerging artists, set against the beautiful backdrop of RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey, GU23 6QB. The show runs until 22nd September 2019.

Don’t miss the accompanying exhibition ‘Sculpture at Wisley 2019’ which features the work of seminal 20th and 21st century artists: Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick, Tracey Emin, Phillip King, Henry Bruce and Philip Haas. To find out more visit www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/wisley and www.mjartist.com.