Chestnut Tree House Supported at Toovey’s Valentine’s Celebrations

Rupert Toovey with Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees at Chestnut Tree House.
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

Toovey’s 25th Anniversary Valentine’s Night celebrations brought hundreds of people together and raised more than £7000 for Chestnut Tree House hospice.

Chestnut Tree’s community team provide care for children and young people with life limiting illnesses to families in their own homes across Sussex and at Chestnut Tree House. The hospice was officially opened on 11th November 2003 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra. It is built in the vernacular of the English Manor House on land donated by the late Lady Sarah Clutton, a person who inspired and encouraged me in so many ways. The Land was given on a 125 year lease. The rent, a dozen mixed lilies (no white ones) and a £1 coin, falls due each year on Lady Sarah’s birthday.

The children and their families have access to wonderful countryside and nature through the hospice’s remarkable wheelchair accessible, interactive Woodland Walk and Meadow Garden.

Hospices are such a bright light in our communities. They allow those with life limiting illnesses to live well whilst also accompanying and tending to their families and loved ones. And they provide the opportunity for each of us to give expression to our care for others as they depend so heavily on our donations.

Chestnut Tree House’s extraordinary services cost more than £4 million every year. With only 6p in the pound funded by government this local charity is dependent on the financial support of the people and communities of Sussex which it serves.

Chestnut Tree House is a charity close to my own heart so I was delighted that Toovey’s 25th Anniversary Valentine’s Night celebrations allowed us to come together and raise funds for this remarkable Sussex charity.

Gary Shipton DL spoke in praise of Chestnut Tree House and Toovey’s.
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

Gary Shipton DL and Patricia Woolgar, Chair of Trustees at Chestnut Tree House, spoke in praise of Toovey’s and Chestnut Tree House.

Andrew Bernardi and Maria Marchant with Rupert Toovey.
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

Toovey’s celebrations included a charity auction. The evening raised over £7000 thanks to the generosity of all who came and concluded with a performance of Sussex music by Andrew Bernardi and his Stradivarius Trio.

If you would like advice on how to fundraise, support, volunteer, or to find out more about Chestnut Tree House and its work visit www.chestnut-tree-house.org.uk.

Toovey’s Celebrate 25th Anniversary

Rupert Toovey

I started Toovey’s Auctioneers twenty-five years ago, with a dedicated team of people who remain passionate about the company and the work we do. We opened on a stormy Valentine’s night in 1995 and were delighted when hundreds of guests braved wind and rain to support us and celebrate this new venture. I set out to create a family firm where people are valued.

The pleasure of accompanying people through their art, collectors’ items and antiques remains as strong as it has always been. We all value objects which allow us to speak of our lives – the prompts to fond memories. Many will also celebrate the beauty of a piece, whilst others collect in the pursuit of knowledge, continually refining and adding to their depth of understanding of a particular field or period, training their eye to the subtle details which set apart exceptional objects. In an age which increasingly confuses information with knowledge and understanding, they are a generous, exciting and refreshing community of people to accompany.

Provenance and the human story behind individual objects or collections add a frisson, which always has an important and positive effect on the prices achieved for them at auction. This has been reflected in Toovey’s sales again and again over the years. The Little Thakeham House Sale, the Bolney Lodge million pound single-owner collection of works of art and furniture, paintings sold for hundreds of thousands and the £520,000 Qianlong period Chinese vase have been just some of the markers which have defined Toovey’s reputation.

Many of the most memorable collections and objects speak of the collectors that form them. Single-owner sales often provide a very personal and particular insight into the lives of the individual collector, such as our 2014 sale of the Library Collection of the late W. Leslie Weller MBE, DL, FSA, which reflected his love of Sussex and his prominent role at Sotheby’s. His friendship, support and advice I always valued highly. In 2015, the collection from Angmering Park House of the 16th Duke of Norfolk’s daughter, the late Baroness Herries of Terregles, reflected the English country house taste which defines us. A number of important single-owner collections auctioned more recently at Toovey’s have included a remarkable group of Chinese porcelain and works of art from London and the collection of the well-known post-war racing driver John Young.

At Toovey’s I and my remarkable team value people before objects and this is given expression not only in the way that we serve people professionally but also in the way that we have always invested our time, money and expertise in the community here in Sussex.

I remain a passionate advocate for building communities through art, heritage and culture which I write about in my weekly column in the West Sussex Gazette and Horsham Gazette. Toovey’s are long-term sponsors of the Shipley Arts Festival, Pallant House Gallery, Sussex Heritage Trust, the wonderful Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, the National Trust at Petworth and many others.

Our company continues to invest in the Sussex community which I love, supporting numerous charities and community groups including Mary How Trust, our local hospices St Barnabas, Chestnut Tree House, St Catherine’s and the Friends of Sussex Hospices, the NSPCC, as well as the WI, U3A and numerous parish churches across the county with talks, professional advice and fund-raising.

We remain a family firm, as we have always been, with family firm values. Our forward looking, dynamic and talented team bridges across the generations and ensures that we remain one of the country’s leading regional auction houses providing a centre of expertise for the valuation and sale of art and antiques with leading specialists and international marketing.

Almost twenty-five years on, I am proud that Toovey’s has fulfilled our hopes and aspirations.

None of this would have been possible, though, without the generous support and encouragement of the collectors, our clients, friends and supporters. On behalf of all of us at Toovey’s, I would like to offer our thanks.

Lost Portrait of Benjamin West Rediscovered

Andrew Robertson’s 1803 portrait of Benjamin West

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s picture specialist and researcher Tim Williams. Tim has just discovered an important portrait of the notable artist Benjamin West (1738-1820) which had been lost for more than 100 years. West’s efforts led to the establishment of the Royal Academy in London and he would become the institution’s second president. The work is a miniature watercolour by Andrew Robertson (1777-1845), one of the pre-eminent portrait miniaturists of the 19th century, and is due to auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 18th March 2020.

Tim Williams explains “Robertson was born in Scotland in 1777 and had studied under Alexander Nasmyth and Henry Raeburn before leaving Scotland for London in 1801 to seek fame and fortune. In a letter to his father in July 1801 Robertson wrote, ‘I shall make London my residence…I may not only make my fortune, but acquire fame in the world.’

Not long after his arrival in London, Robertson made the acquaintance of Benjamin West. West saw that the ambitious Scotsman had great talent, and became something of a mentor and advocate to the young artist, agreeing to sit for a portrait himself.

Robertson began West’s portrait in 1802. West would sit for Robertson on a Sunday morning. In total the portrait took 15 sittings over many months. Robertson wrote to the wealthy London businessman John Julius Angerstein in August, ‘…without any other introduction to Mr. West, he should so far approve of my poor pencil as to think it not beneath him to sit to me, and to sacrifice a very considerable portion of his precious time, for that purpose. I have painted his portrait in the same style as I copied Govartius…’. The composition was strongly influenced by Anthony van Dyck’s portrait of Cornelis van der Geest. At the time it was known as ‘Govartius’ and Angerstein, who owned it, had given Robertson access to copy the picture earlier in 1802.”

Toovey’s picture specialist Tim Williams with Andrew Robertson’s rediscovered portrait of Benjamin West

Tim continues “Once completed Robertson sent his miniature portrait of West for exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1803 where it received much acclaim from visitors and established artists. Robertson wrote to his friend John Ewen, ‘…Mr. West told me himself that I have no idea how it [his portrait] is talked of, and approved, both by artists and others.’ More excitingly for Robertson it was seen by George III. In a letter of 1803, Robertson elaborates. ‘Yesterday the King visited the Exhibition… After the King went into the room where my pictures are, I heard him take notice of them… I heard the King say, ‘Roberts?-aye, Robertson’ …‘Scotchman?’ and a little after-‘beginner’ – this was all I could hear. However, it was enough to afford me no small degree of satisfaction.’

Buoyed by this success, and now in demand, Robertson had a copy of his miniature of Benjamin West engraved in mezzotint by George Dawe in 1804. These mezzotint copies allowed the work to be disseminated widely and enabled people to own a version – particularly since the original was in Benjamin West’s personal collection.”

I ask Tim how the portrait came to be lost and he replies “By 1899 the miniature was recorded being in the possession of Charles Montague Richard Cleeve, agent to the Bayham Abbey estate near Lamberhurst in Kent, and subsequently found its way into the collection of the current vendor’s grandfather by 1960. Regrettably, and often the case with unsigned works, the artist’s name and importance of this work had been forgotten.”

Tim Williams is still inviting entries for Toovey’s next sale of fine paintings which will be held on Wednesday 18th March 2020, and can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955 or at auctions@tooveys.com.