The Donald Church and Michael Godfrey Collections

These two beautiful collections represent the best of English country house taste and I am delighted that they are the subject of a series of specialist sales at Toovey’s.

The collections are the property of the artist and interior designer Donald Church and the connoisseur Michael Godfrey. Donald and Michael’s great friendship was born out of a shared joy in collecting and National Trust trips.

Donald Church, a graduate of Medway College of Art and Maidstone College of Art, 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. Although incredibly talented, John Fowler had a reputation for not always being easy to work with. Donald left his position as John’s assistant but remained a life-long friend. He continued to work for John as a consultant over many years, providing watercolour designs and drawings, including studies for John’s interior designs for several National Trust properties. Donald also worked with other leading interior decorators, including David Hicks, Mary Fox Linton and another Colefax and Fowler luminary, Imogen Taylor.

Donald maintained his friendship with John Fowler and a number of pieces from John’s home, The Hunting Lodge in Odiham, form part of Donald’s collection. These include several pieces of furniture and decorative items. There is a photograph showing John Fowler in the Garden Room at The Hunting Lodge, sitting in a Louis XVI style chair which is entered in the auction. Donald Church’s unerring eye for taste, design and quality informed the interiors of his home and his collection.

Michael Godfrey’s collection, too, is informed by exceptional taste and includes fine Georgian furniture and works of art, 18th-century Worcester porcelain, paintings and prints. Michael famously spent his lunchtimes searching out pieces for his collection around St James’s, London, while working as a senior accountant for the Commonwealth Secretariat in Pall Mall.

Their collections will be sold together in a series of specialist auctions throughout March, April and May 2023.

Search “Donald Church” or “Michael Godfrey” in the current auction to see the collections.

The Important Sussex Artist, Fred Cuming

Fred Cuming – ‘Roses I’, 20th century oil on canvas laid onto board, signed recto © the artist/Toovey’s 2023

The artist Fred Cuming, RA, is considered to be one of the finest landscape painters of his generation. He lived and worked in East Sussex.

Born in 1930 Cuming attended the Sidcup School of art in the years after the war. Between 1951 and 1955 Cuming studied at the Royal College of Art in London gaining a Rome Scholarship. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1974 (ARA 1969). He was also a Member of the New English Art Club and an Associate of the Royal College of Art.

Writing about Fred Cuming the biographer Richard Holmes describes him as ‘A truly visionary painter.’ Cuming conveys recognisable scenes transforming them with a poetic intensity born out of light and colour.

Fred Cuming gives voice to his life and inspiration as an artist in the insightful short film Portrait of an artist (Fred Cuming) commissioned by the Royal Academy in 2015.

He describes how he grew up in Woolwich fascinated by the boats and water, painting even as a young boy.

In his Sussex studio he worked on numerous paintings at the same time, each informing the other as they develop. Form and structure in the scene becomes apparent as he commits the scene to paper.

Two oils by this important artist, entered from a collection in Horsham, sold in Toovey’s recent fine art sale for £2200 and £3600 respectively.

Fred Cuming – Fowey, Square Rigger’, 20th century oil on board, signed recto © the artist/Toovey’s 2023

The scene, ‘Fowey, Square Rigger’, shimmers in the Cornish sunlight, the brilliant palette adding life and movement to the scene which is recognisable and abstract – a fleeting moment in time. Cuming has in the past reflected that the “problem presented by the simple seascape, which is about nothing more than light and space, I find particularly intriguing.” This scene is one which I am particularly fond of as we used to holiday at Polruan on the other side of the Fowey estuary when our children were young.

The cool morning light in the studio is finely captured in the still life ‘Roses I’ – the delicate brush work and palette transcends our immediate perceptions. Fred Cuming’s painting captures our attention and stills us.

This questioning artist’s excitement in the world and the landscapes he painted remained undiminished. Cuming reflected “…the more I discover the more there is to discover.”

To discover more about this important Sussex artist visit www.fredcuming.com.

Juan Manuel Blanes World Record at Toovey’s

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

A major work by Uruguay’s most important painter Juan Manuel Blanes of a Gaucho has just broken the world record at auction selling for £1.15 million at Toovey’s.

Rupert Toovey said “I have known the painting for many years but congratulations must go to our fine art consultant Tim Williams whose exceptional research and tenacity in contacting collectors across the world has made this remarkable result possible, and Nick Toovey who conducted the auction.”

Toovey’s fine art consultant Tim Williams with Juan Manuel Blanes’s important painting Gaucho on Horseback

Tim Williams commented “Juan Manuel Blanes [1830-1901] is 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.”

He continues “The Uruguayan municipal gallery in Montevideo is named Museo del Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes and houses the largest collection of the artist’s work.”

Tim’s research revealed the painting’s remarkable provenance. The first owner of the painting was the notable Spanish aristocrat Baldomero Hyacinth de Bertodano, 7th Marquis de Moral. He lived at Cowbridge House near Malmsbury in Wiltshire and the painting hung there until his death in 1921. The contents of Cowbridge House were auctioned to divide the estate between five family members. The painting was included in the sale. Described as ‘A fine Oil Painting, The Gaucho on the Pampas in Argentine about 52 by 46 ins’. Baldomero’s brother, Charles Edmund de Bertodano, a notable Railway engineer, purchased the painting from the auction and it remained with his family to the present day.

Thought originally to be an Argentinian landscape the painting sold by Toovey’s actually depicts a Uruguayan scene with a Gaucho on horseback pointing, as two horsemen gallop away on the horizon. The golden glow of Blanes’ palette and the way that he paints the effect of light playing on the prairie is remarkable.

Tim explains “Blanes’ Gaucho paintings celebrate the way of life of these independent, rugged horsemen whose lives embodied the South American ‘Wild West’ and national identity in a similar way to the cowboys of the United States. The open prairie beneath an expansive sky would have contrasted with the pressured urban lives of the cosmopolitan collectors who patronised Blanes’ work.”

Toovey’s Chairman, Rupert Toovey with the World Record Breaking Blanes Gaucho

Commenting on the result Rupert Toovey said “This is the first time that this important painting has appeared on the market in some 102 years. A hammer price of £1.15 million is a new world record and I am delighted that the painting has been acquired by a private Uruguayan collector.”

Watch the auction below:

Important Gaucho Painting to be Sold at Toovey’s

Juan Manuel Blanes’s Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1879-1885

A major work by Uruguay’s most important painter Juan Manuel Blanes of a Gaucho has been re-discovered here in Sussex by Toovey’s fine art consultant Tim Williams. It will be sold at Toovey’s Washington salerooms on February 15th and carries a pre-sale estimate of £80,000-£120,000.

Juan Manuel Blanes (1830-1901) is 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.

The Uruguayan national gallery in Montevideo is named Museo del Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes and houses the largest collection of the artist’s work.

Tim’s research has revealed the painting’s remarkable provenance. The first owner of the painting was the notable Spanish aristocrat Baldomero Hyacinth de Bertodano, 7th Marquis de Moral. He lived at Cowbridge House near Malmsbury in Wiltshire and the painting hung there until his death in 1921. The contents of Cowbridge House were auctioned to divide the estate between five family members. The painting was included in the sale. Described as ‘A fine Oil Painting, The Gaucho on the Pampas in Argentine about 52 by 46 ins’. Baldomero’s brother, Charles Edmund de Bertodano, a notable Railway engineer, purchased the painting from the auction and it has remained with his family to the present day.

The landscape being sold at Toovey’s depicts a scene with a Gaucho on horseback pointing, as two horsemen gallop away on the horizon. Despite the reference to Argentina in the Cowbridge House auction catalogue, the painting in fact shows a Uruguayan prairie. The golden glow of Blanes’s palette and the way that he paints the effect of light playing on that prairie is remarkable.

Toovey’s fine art consultant Tim Williams with Juan Manuel Blanes’s important painting Gaucho on Horseback

Tim explains how Blanes’ Gaucho paintings celebrate the way of life of these independent, rugged horsemen whose lives embodied the South American ‘Wild West’ and national identity in a similar way to the cowboys of the United States. The open prairie beneath an expansive sky would have contrasted with the pressured urban lives of the cosmopolitan collectors who patronised Blanes’ work.

Commenting on the forthcoming auction Tim said “This is the first time that this important painting has appeared on the market in some 102 years – I can’t wait until sale day to see what happens!”

Juan Manuel Blanes’ Gaucho on Horseback in a Uruguayan Prairie Landscape, oil on canvas, circa 1879-1885, will be auctioned at Toovey’s on February 15th with a pre-sale estimate of £80,000-£120,000

Here are a few of my favourite things…

Dame Vera Lynn’s late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket

2022 saw some remarkable discoveries and sales at Toovey’s. It is always wonderful when remarkable and beautiful pieces are sold to the benefit of Sussex charities.

In The Sound of Music I love it when Julie Andrews sings “…These are a few of my favourite things.”

With many to choose from two of my favourite things from the 2022 auction season were the remarkable heart shaped diamond brooch sold for the Dame Vera Lynn Charitable Trust and the Duncan Grant Still Life in aid of The Sussex Heritage Trust.

During the Second World War Dame Vera Lynn was known as the Forces Sweetheart, a singer of undoubtable talent she became an icon of hope in the face of the sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges of the Second World War.

The heart remains one of the definitive symbols of love and Dame Vera’s large, late Victorian diamond set heart shaped pendant locket, pavé set with old cut diamonds was a fine example. The smaller diamonds accentuated the principle stone at its centre within a shimmering field. The back was glazed and hinged with a locket compartment. This beautiful jewel with it’s exceptional provenance realised £26,000 for her charitable trust.

Later in the year a still life by the famous Charleston and Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant was sold at Toovey’s in aid of the Sussex Heritage Trust.

Duncan Grant (1885-1978), Chair with Flowers. Still Life, oil on canvas

The picture was donated to the Trust by Peter Carreras, a distinguished Sussex artist and printmaker, and his wife, Greta.

Duncan Grant’s painting provides a very British voice to the influences of Post-Impressionism. It depicts a handmade jug, of the type made by both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, filled with flowers upon a painted Bloomsbury chair. His handling of the paint and the joyous palette reflects the art he and Vanessa Bell produced here in Sussex at Charleston. Although a later work the painting made £14,000 for the Sussex Heritage Trust.

When I founded Toovey’s some 28 years ago with my Dad, Alan, we wanted to model a different way of being business where people, our clients and team, were front and centre. And where the business was at the heart of the community supporting what is good in our county. It has been great fun and these values remain central to Toovey’s. Working alongside and in support of our county’s fantastic charities, museums, galleries and communities is, as it has always been, a great privilege.