Art is harmony in parallel with nature

Édouard Vuillard’s ‘Modèle assise dans un fauteuil, se coiffant’, oil © Pallant House Gallery 2020

This week I thought I would take you to Pallant House Gallery for a flavour of their latest show Degas to Picasso. The exhibition provides a platform to showcase a number of the international, continental European modern prints and paintings in the gallery’s collection from the 19th and 20th centuries. It includes works by Degas, Manet, Picasso, Bonnard, Klee and Léger.

Amongst my favourite images on display is the 1898 lithograph by the Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne titled ‘Les Grands Baigneurs’. Cézanne is regarded by many as the father of modern art. His work foreshadows Cubism and Fauvism. In this image the abstracted figures are united with the artist’s emotional engagement with the rhythms in nature and the landscape. Writing to a friend in the 1890s Cézanne would declare “Art is a harmony parallel with nature.”

Paul Cezanné, ‘Les Grands Baigneurs’, lithograph © Pallant House Gallery 2020

The print seems to evoke Cézanne’s fond memories of swimming as a schoolboy with his closest friends, Émille Zola and Jean-Baptiste Baille in the Arc River near his home in Aix-en-Provence. It is an expression of idealised comradeship, of true friendship rather than passing acquaintance. It is my experience that the best and most creative things in life always come out of long-term relationships built on trust. These ideals were highly valued by the novelist Émille Zola.

The other is another intimate scene ‘Modèle assise dans un fauteuil, se coiffant’ from 1903 by the Post-Impressionist Édouard Vuillard. It was painted in Vuillard’s studio in Rue Truffant in Paris where his mother ran the family sewing business. It is redolent of many of the artist’s interiors. Vuillard believed that a painting is a grouping of harmonious lines and colours. The beautiful pattern of the brushwork in this oil on paper gives life, texture and space to the scene. There is an economy in the palette Vuillard employs which draws our eye through the composition. At the centre the model is lost in her thoughts as she combs and pins her hair.

This exhibition reminds us that many Modern British artists, including Walter Sickert and Harold Gilman, were influenced by the modern artistic movements of continental Europe.

As a nation we have always embraced the ‘modern’ across the centuries whilst, of course, keeping one eye on the past. After all the British are a processional people – we celebrate the past as we confidently embrace the future. Our eclectic taste, like our art, is distinctive to our island nation. The influence of the international has always informed British culture reflecting our nation’s global, outward facing character.

The importance of our museums, theatres and art galleries in articulating our hopes, common stories and identity is often overlooked and misunderstood: as is their significant and positive economic impact on our local economy. I hope that our politicians will continue to look at creative ways to support this sector through the current challenges.

These are difficult times for our county’s museums, theatres and art galleries. I hope that you will join me in supporting them once the current restrictions are eased.

It would be lovely to just talk about the weather again!

Stanley Roy Badmin – ‘Skating on a Winter Afternoon’, watercolour with touches of gouache © Toovey’s 2020

Last Wednesday I popped into McColl’s newsagents in Storrington as usual to collect my copy of the West Sussex Gazette. The ladies greeted me cheerfully “We’ve really been enjoying the snow, it’s so lovely to have something to talk about instead of Covid and Brexit.” I agreed, it would be lovely to just talk about the weather again.

As I drove to the salerooms at Washington the fields and Downs looked beautiful beneath their light dusting of snow.

The scene brought to mind two joyful winter landscapes by the Sussex watercolourist and print maker, Stanley Roy Badmin (1906-1989) which sold at Toovey’s for £1700 and £2400 respectively. Badmin moved to Bignor, Sussex in 1959 with his family and second wife Roasaline.

Born at Sydenham, Badmin trained at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts between 1922 and 1924, and the Royal College of Art between 1924 and 1927 where he studied painting and design. He taught and worked as an etcher, illustrator and artist. In the 1930s he was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, and the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours. During the Second World War Badmin worked on Kenneth Clark’s Recording Britain project. After the war he contributed illustrations to The Shell Guide to Trees and Shrubs, and four volumes of the Shell Guides to the Counties of England.

Together with artists like John Piper and Graham Sutherland, Stanley Roy Badmin was part of a collective English re-thinking of the role of locality and place in relation to our identity from the 1930s onwards.

In both the watercolours illustrated there is beauty in Badmin’s detailed, accurate depiction of the trees and the anecdotal charm of the people.

Stanley Roy Badmin – ‘River Ouse looking E. from Odell’, watercolour with gouache © Toovey’s 2020

Although the first watercolour is a snow covered Yorkshire scene it reminds me of that piece of open country which ascends to the Downs to the west of Washington. Here our familiar flock of sheep is replaced by a small but happy gathering of dogs with their owners and children on toboggans.

In the playful landscape Skating on a Winter Afternoon the lyrical sweep of the frozen river emphasises the speed and movement of the skaters which is echoed in the rhythm of the trees. In the lower left hand corner a Mallard duck seems to quack in appreciation at the happy commotion of the gathering.

In line with government advice, and to keep our community safe, Toovey’s is gathering people to our Winter Season of sales online. Until the current lockdown is lifted we can no longer welcome people at the salerooms except for ‘click and collect’. But people are delighted to be able to email images for online valuations or book a home visit. I am still visiting people in their homes, in line with government guidance, to provide valuations.

Online is an incredible blessing in these times. I hope that you are able to stay safe. For now I look forward to gathering you online to Toovey’s Winter Season of sales which can be viewed at www.tooveys.com.

The Royal Pavilion as George IV Intended

The Orléans Chinese porcelain jars, circa 1710, with later English additions © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2019

As the New Year dawns we are returning to The Royal Pavilion, Brighton to once again experience ‘A Prince’s Treasure’, an exhibition of international importance which remains on show for much of 2021.

The exhibition showcases a spectacular loan of some 120 decorative works of art from Her Majesty The Queen; pieces that were originally commissioned by the Prince Regent for the Royal Pavilion. It provides a once in a lifetime opportunity for visitors to see these objects of unparalleled magnificence in their original setting. The Pavilion’s exotic, regal interiors come alive in the company of the pieces commissioned for them, and further our understanding of the future George IV’s influence and tastes as Britain became an economic superpower.

I am once again in the company of David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion, who has overseen this remarkable collaboration between the Royal Collection Trust and the Royal Pavilion.

I am always delighted to return to the third of the Pavilion’s great state rooms, the Music Room. It was created to reflect George IV’s love of music. The magnificent decoration is not constrained in anyway. It is a masterpiece of one of the King’s chief decorators, Frederick Crace. Under Crace’s instructions Henry Lambert, together with 34 assistants, painted the canvas panels with Chinese scenes in gold against crimson grounds creating the impression of the room being like a huge chinoiserie box. I adore the carved, painted and silvered dragons which shimmer as they support the canvases and blue silk drapes. The chandeliers take the form of spreading lotus flowers adding life and perspective to John Nash’s domed and tented ceiling.

The Chinese porcelain pagodas, circa 1803, with English additions © HM Queen Elizabeth II, 2019

Despite my familiarity with the room David Beevers remarks excitedly that I must look to the right as we enter it. I am unprepared and overwhelmed by the spectacle of the line of six enormous porcelain pagodas which make sense of and give voice to the scale of this room.

These imposing porcelain objects were acquired in 1803/1804 from China and the dealer Robert Fogg. Fogg supplied the English Spode porcelain bases as well as the gilded bronze bells, dolphins and dogs, and the dragon finials which were subcontracted to B.L. Vulliamy.

Flanking the marvellous fireplace are two of the magnificent Orléans jars. Over nine feet high they were used as oil lamps in the corners of the Music Room. George IV was particularly interested in objects associated with the French monarchy and three of the jars bear the arms of Phillipe, duc d’Orleans, Regent of France from 1715-1723. The bases are Spode and the gilded bronze fittings are again from B.L. Vulliamy.

Many of the decorative works of art have not been on public display for over 170 years and are on loan to the Royal Pavilion whilst essential building works in the East Wing of Buckingham Palace take place. They were removed to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle by Queen Victoria in 1847 when it was thought that the Royal Pavilion might be demolished. It is wonderful to see them temporarily re-united with their original setting.

‘A Prince’s Treasure’ is 2021’s must see exhibition in Sussex. To find out more and to book your tickets as soon as Tier 4 restrictions are lifted visit www.brightonmuseums.org.uk/royalpavilion.