Important Post War Ceramics Speak of Hope and Renewal

Picasso Madoura editions ceramics ‘Bunch with Apple’, ‘Two Dancers’and ‘Bull and Picador’

Alongside the tragedy of war the 20th century witnessed a flowering of the arts. Painters, sculptors, writers, musicians and composers in the Post-War period sought to give voice to all that it is to be human and to hope.

The Austrian born Jewish potter Dame Lucie Rie was arguably the most influential ceramicist of the Post–War period with an international reputation. In 1938 Lucie Rie left Nazi Austria and made London her home. Her ideas and work were rooted in the Modern Movement and she quickly arrived at the simple thrown cylindrical forms which would define her pots and bowls. Rie experimented with ‘volcanic’ glazes which she would use to beautiful effect on her post-war stoneware.

Rie worked closely with the remarkable Hans Coper in London. His father was Jewish and Coper had to flee Nazi Germany in 1939. His abstract, sculptural stoneware forms are also celebrated. His rare early vase with its yellow and manganese flowing glazes is beautifully conceived.

Vases by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper

Amongst the towering giants of the 20th century was Pablo Picasso. After living under the Nazis in his Paris studio he journeyed south to Provence. Provence, as much an idea as a place, has gathered diverse peoples to her over millennia. Each have added to her richness and, in their turn, have been shaped by this remarkable land.

In the summer of 1946, Pablo Picasso decided to visit the annual potter’s exhibition in the provincial village of Vallauris. There he met Suzanne and Georges Ramié, the founders of the Madoura ceramic workshop, who were keen to persuade him to come to Vallauris.

Picasso returned in July 1947 bringing his extraordinary imagination and creative energy to the medium of ceramics. He was first attracted by the large, almost rectangular dishes in the workshop. Here Picasso took the everyday and transformed it in to high art, painting and incising with an extraordinary richness of expression. Favourite themes included figures, bullfights and still lifes as depicted on the pitcher and plates. In each you see the free, graphic rhythm and unorthodox method which typifies Picasso’s ceramics. These pieces are Picasso Madoura limited editions authenticated by a stamp to the base. Picasso lived at Vallauris before moving to Cannes.

These important pieces have been entered for sale in Toovey’s specialist studio pottery auction on Thursday 29th February from a Sussex private collection. Pre-sale estimates range between £1000 and £4000. They reflect the desire amongst artists to give voice to hope and renewal in the Post-War period.

2024 Shipley Arts Festival Launched At Toovey’s

Rupert Toovey, Andrew Bernardi, and Grace Shearing

Friends, sponsors and supporters gathered at Toovey’s Washington salerooms for the launch of the 2024 Shipley Arts Festival.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation gathering a community of many of this country’s leading musicians whilst providing pathways to emerging talent.

The evening included Csárdás written by the Italian composer Vittorio Monti in 1904. The piece draws on the Hungarian folk tradition. It begins slowly rising to an ecstatic crescendo and was played by the extraordinarily talented young violinist Grace Shearing accompanied by pianist Christina Maude. Grace is now the lead violinist at Lancing College having begun her musical journey with Andrew Bernardi’s String Academy when she was 8 years old. The String Academy seeks to provide opportunity through music to young people regardless of their background.

It is these qualities which attracted the attention of Chris and Elaine Goodman who, through their Focus Foundation, seek to support young people, often from families with disadvantaged backgrounds across Sussex and the UK. This year Andrew Bernardi is partnering with Lancing College who are hosting the event, The Yehudi Menuhin School and the Focus Foundation bringing together 400 performers from 10 of our local schools and an adult choir to perform Chris Hussey’s new opera Beware the Mackerel Sky. I am really looking forward to hearing the opera at Lancing College after the captivating extract at Sunday’s launch. Chris Hussey’s piece follows in the tradition set by Benjamin Britten and Andrew Lloyd Webber at Lancing College.

Andrew Bernardi performed Méditation from Thais, the opera by Jules Massenet and with the internationally renowned Italian conductor and pianist Andrea Ferrari. The extraordinary range of the Amici Bernardi Stradivarius violin came alive as Andrew played this sonorous, moving and redemptive piece.

Kreston Reeves’ Daniel Grainge and Andrew Bernardi with musicians from his Youth String Academy at Toovey’s

Concluding the evening Andrew Bernardi said “What we have in common with our sponsors friends and patrons are our shared values. A belief in our communities and young people, and that there is a place for excellence.”

As the longest standing sponsor of the Shipley Arts Festival I am delighted that Toovey’s and myself remain at the heart of this remarkable celebration of music and community. Together with our fellow sponsors Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, and NFU Mutual at Horsham, Henfield and Chichester, we wish Andrew Bernardi and his Shipley Arts Festival every success with the 2024 season of concerts.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival and to book your tickets visit the box office at

The Royal Chester and The Art of Model Engineering

The Allchin traction engine ‘Royal Chester’

The Royal Chester was the last traction engine made by Allchin of Northampton in 1925 and has been an inspiration to model engineers.

Allchin was founded in 1847 by William Allchin at the Globe Works in Northampton. The firm built its first steam engine in 1872. In 1900 the firm became William Allchin & Sons Ltd. The high quality of its manufacturing was greatly admired.

The Royal Chester was a 7hp general purpose agricultural traction engine. Her makers had intended to show her at the Royal Show at Chester in 1925 but sent a steam wagon instead. Nevertheless, the Royal Chester name has been associated with her ever since. W. J. Hughes first came across her in 1948 whilst out cycling looking for engines. She was in the yard of J.G. & B. Earnshaw, a firm of threshing contractors in east Derbyshire. The Earnshaw brothers allowed him to return often to measure the engine. Hughes would prepare a full set of blueprint drawings of all the component parts necessary to build a 1 1/2 inch scale model. Hughes was also responsible for persuading Chris Lambert, a pioneer preservationist, to buy her saving her from the fate of being cut up for scrap. Chris Lambert would restore her.

A live-steam 1 1/2 inch scale model of the Allchin traction engine ‘Royal Chester’

My whole life I have adored steam locomotives and traction engines: the drama of their scale, the smell and whoosh of steam and the characters of the different engines. All of these qualities are distilled in the scale model replicas.

The Royal Chester is one of the most famous Allchin engines and has been the standard upon which many model replicas have been based, like the example illustrated which sold in a specialist auction at Toovey’s for £1000.

Model engineers seek to construct fine scaled miniature working models of full sized machines. Castings are often purchased, finished and assembled by a model engineer with great attention to detail and accuracy based on drawings like those of W.J. Hughes. Model engineers often make live steam examples of locomotives, traction engines, stationary engines and marine engines.

Toovey’s toy and model specialist Chris Gale already has a number of live steam models entered for his next specialist sale on Wednesday 20th March 2023 and is inviting further entries.

Steam engines have such life and whether full-size or scale replicas they are engineered to the most remarkable tolerances and are highly valued.

John Craxton’s Sunlight, Joy and Colour On Show At Pallant House

John Craxton, Still Life with Sailors, 1980-1985

The artist John Craxton (1922-2009) was a contemporary and friend of Lucian Freud. The current exhibition, John Craxton: A Modern Odyssey, at Pallant House Gallery concentrates on his life and work.

The show is arranged chronologically portraying the artist’s life as an odyssey from his early life in pre-war Britain and culminating in his awakening in Greece.

John Craxton was born into a Bohemian, musical family in London. He lived in his imagination drawing on his fascination for the ancient and mythology, themes expressed in his art. As he struck out he produced a series of melancholic landscapes and was, to his annoyance, associated by many with the Neo-Romantic movement.

His early self portrait displays the introspective qualities and palette of much of his work from this earlier period.

John Craxton, Self Portrait, 1946-1947

The influences of his mentor Graham Sutherland and the inspiration of Picasso, who he met, began to permeate his paintings with an increasingly radiant palette.

Shortly after the end of the war, in 1946, Craxton’s odyssey finally arrived in Greece. He was accompanied by his rebellious friend and contemporary, the artist Lucian Freud. Once in Greece Craxton’s work began to be emblematic of his homosexuality the works filled with a new found freedom; a sense of joyous rebelliousness and liberation. The work is far less introspective. He painted portraits, life and the scenes around him. The paintings are inculcated with the influences of cubism and surrealism with bold outlines and vibrant colour. The resilience of the people and the animals in the landscape are often tinged with a breaking smile, perhaps reflecting Craxton’s state of mind.

Still Life with Three Sailors painted in the 1980s captures these qualities. It depicts three conscripted sailors seated at a table in a Cretan taverna on the harbourside. These later works draw on Greece’s layered creative history, myths, sculpture, Byzantine mosaics and Icons. The sailors are like mariners in a Greek myth far from home.

But it is the composition, palette and domesticity of the scene which delights. The wall notice behind them implores taverna dancers not to break the plates whilst being applauded with the words ‘No Breakage by Order’. There is a lightness and humour to Craxton’s signing of the cigarette packet and dating of the beer bottle.

It is in these later works that you find sunlight, joy and colour – the perfect antidote to our winter rain and grey weather.

John Craxton: A Modern Odyssey runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until 21st April 2024.

Art and Antiques Discovered and Sold in the Heart of Sussex

Juan Manuel Blanes’s Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1875-1878

As the New Year and auction season begins I have been reflecting on some of the remarkable art and collections I discovered and sold at Toovey’s here in the heart of Sussex in 2023.

It was the late W Leslie Weller, MBE, DL, who first pioneered a regional centre of specialism and auctioneering with Sotheby’s in Sussex. He was a great inspiration, patron and encouragement to me over the years. I was honoured to sell his renowned Sussex library and collection as a single-owner auction. Sotheby’s auction house in Sussex closed more than twenty years ago. But Leslie was pleased that his vision of a regional auction house with specialists in the major collecting disciplines, here in the heart of Sussex, was alive and well at Toovey’s. Today we continue to attract local, national and international collectors and dealers to our specialist auctions as he did.

Last year at Toovey’s a major work by Uruguay’s most important painter Juan Manuel Blanes (1830-1901) of a Gaucho broke the world record for his paintings at auction selling for £1.15 million.

Juan Manuel Blanes was renowned for painting grand history paintings and portraits as well as scenes and events that shaped Uruguay’s national identity during the years of conflict that resulted in independence from Spain.

Toovey’s picture specialist Tim Williams’s research revealed the painting’s remarkable provenance and enabled him to promoted the picture to an international audience of collectors resulting in the world record price.

English Country House Taste is layered and eclectic always reflecting the taste and interests of the collector and often a patchwork quilt of stories and interests. It is unpretentious, layered and evolving.

An interior from the Donald Church and Michael Godfrey Collections

The beautiful collections of the artist and interior decorator, Donald Church, and the connoisseur, Michael Godfrey represented the best of English Country House taste and were the subject of a series of specialist sales at Toovey’s. Michael and Donald shared a great friendship.

Donald Church had a remarkable career working with many of the leading interior decorators of the post-war period including the hugely influential John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler.

Michael Godfrey’s collection, too, was informed by exceptional taste and included fine Georgian furniture and Works of Art, 18th century Worcester porcelain, paintings and prints.

The prices reflected the quality of their collections and showed the strength of demand for the finest traditional pieces with good provenance.

I am looking forward to 2024, it looks set to be another exciting year at Toovey’s!