The Japanese Art of Beauty and Restraint

A Chelsea porcelain hexagonal teapot and cover
A Chelsea porcelain hexagonal teapot and cover, circa 1750-1755, decorated in the Kakiemon palette.

European collectors of Asian porcelain from the 18th century to today have celebrated the technically and artistically superb production of Japan. Amongst the most influential styles is Kakiemon, produced from the late 17th century onwards. Kakiemon porcelain is typically lightly decorated with asymmetrical patterns, usually depicting landscapes or flowers; the delicate painting is of high quality. Whilst there is a consensus that the Kakiemon style was produced at numerous kilns, it is the famous milky-white ‘nigoshide’ body, produced at the Nangawara kiln in Arita, which is particularly revered by connoisseurs. These qualities are emphasised by the near-colourless glaze.

Kakiemon is named after Sakaida Kakiemon, an almost mythical figure in Japanese porcelain history, to whom this polychrome enamelled decoration is first attributed. This skill in enamelling is illustrated in the way that the body is never decorated with underglaze blue. Though rarely imitated in China, Kakiemon was a great inspiration to porcelain manufacturers in France, Germany and England.

From the 1720s and throughout the 1730s, copies of Japanese Kakiemon achieved popularity in Continental Europe and England. Meissen examples were inspired by the Asian ceramics collection of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. In 1717 Augustus acquired a small palace on the bank of the Elbe River in Dresden. It became known as the ‘Japanese Palace’ and was home to his extensive collection of Oriental ceramics, which included some 20,000 objects. Rooms on the second floor were reserved for examples from the Meissen factory, which he founded by royal decree in 1710. Although not completed during Augustus’ lifetime, the Japanese Palace remains one of the outstanding artistic achievements of the 18th century.

A Meissen porcelain circular saucer dish
A Meissen porcelain circular saucer dish from the Japanese Palace, circa 1730, painted in the Kakiemon style.
A pair of Japanese porcelain dishes
A pair of Japanese porcelain dishes, late 18th/ early19th century, painted in the Kakiemon style.

The Meissen porcelain circular saucer dish illustrated dates from 1730 and was originally from the Japanese Palace. It is painted in the Kakiemon style with a gilt-enriched, iron-red tiger opposite flowering bamboo. The base is marked with crossed swords in underglaze blue and an incised and painted Japanese Palace inventory number, ‘N=ZZ5. W’. Measuring just 21.2cm in diameter and with a minor chip to the rim, the dish realised £5800 at auction in Sussex at a Toovey’s specialist sale of Continental ceramics.

At the Chelsea porcelain factory in England, the Kakiemon taste of 17th century Japanese porcelain was also notable from the early 1750s. In this instance, however, the influence was derived from Meissen. Chelsea’s Kakiemon pieces were characteristically octagonal in form, like the porcelain teapot and cover shown, circa 1750-1755. Note how the body is decorated in the Kakiemon palette with an asymmetrical design of blossoming prunus, bamboo and banded hedge, the reverse with a ho-o bird in flight. This example was unmarked and had restoration to the spout and metal reinforcement to the handle. Nevertheless, it realised £2200 in my recent specialist auction.

Perhaps surprisingly, late 18th and early 19th century examples of Japanese Kakiemon, like the pair of plates illustrated, can be acquired much more reasonably. Today, a pair of plates like this would carry an auction estimate of £300-500, though the finest examples are valued in the thousands.

Kakiemon porcelain, whether Japanese, Continental or English, has for over four centuries provided an articulation of beauty through its restrained depictions of flowers and exquisite use of polychrome enamels. Its style resonates with our contemporary taste and, whilst prices continue to rise, it still represents great value and opportunities for the collector. Toovey’s next specialist auctions of British and Continental porcelain and Oriental ceramics and works of art will be held on the 12th September and 10th October 2013.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 7th  August 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

‘Collaging Culture’ at Pallant House Gallery

Real Gold by Eduardo Paolozzi
Eduardo Paolozzi, “Real Gold”, 1949, printed papers on paper, Tate, presented by the artist 1995 © The Trustees of the Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation.

An exhibition of the important British artist Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) has just opened at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Its title, “Collaging Culture”, captures the centrality of collage in inspiring and directing the artist’s work across disciplines. But it is the extraordinary breadth of art from the artist’s oeuvre which impresses and provides such insight into his work and times. Paolozzi’s sculptures, printmaking, textiles, ceramics and film are all represented.

Simon Martin, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery, with Eduardo Paolozzi’s “Artificial Sun”, circa 1964.

Eduardo Paolozzi always located his work within a surrealist context. He claimed to have embraced “the iconography of the New World”. “The American magazine,” he said, “represented a catalogue of an exotic society, bountiful and generous, where the event of selling tinned pears was transformed in multi-coloured dreams.” This fascination with American culture is clearly expressed in his collage “Real Gold” from 1949, illustrated here. Disparate images jostle for the viewer’s attention – a futuristic car, a glamorous woman, tinned orange juice, a couple on a motorbike – and yet in this disunity a narrative for post-war American culture is expressed with a clear artistic voice. Paolozzi acknowledged that defacing an image, erasing and destroying its original context was a metaphor for the creative process itself. For him, raw materials equated with raw images. Simon Martin, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery, explains, “In order to understand Paolozzi and the different aspects of the way he works, not just the sculptures but the prints, textiles and ceramics, you have to recognize the fact that his approach to collage connects all of this.” Paolozzi, the son of two Italian immigrants, worked at the family confectionery shop in the Scottish port of Leith. From an early age he collected cigarette cards and images in scrap albums, many of which he used in later work.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s a cold-war generation of artists in Britain began to turn towards New York for inspiration, rather than Paris. Paolozzi had a foot firmly in both camps and I am interested to better understand this link. Simon enthuses, “Through the process of collage, Paolozzi emerges as an artistic bridge between post-war Europe, Britain and the United States.”

Together with fellow sculptors William Turnbull and Geoffrey Clarke (whose work is represented at Chichester Cathedral and on the chapel of the Bishop Otter campus at the University of Chichester), Paolozzi was inspired by Picasso and Matisse and rebelled against the teaching at the Slade School of Fine Art. A near sell-out exhibition in 1947 at the Mayor Gallery allowed the artist to leave the Slade and go to Paris. There he met and befriended Isabel Lambert. Lambert, herself an artist engaged in drawing figures from the ballet, had modelled for and briefly lived with Alberto Giacometti. It was she who introduced the two artists. The influence of Giacometti is visible in Paolozzi’s sculptures at this time.

Portrait of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, 2000, © The Trustees of the Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation.

Giacometti provided another rich seam of influence when he introduced Paolozzi to the French existentialist philosopher, writer and political activist Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialist philosophers disagreed about much but shared the belief that philosophical thinking includes the active, feeling, living human individual and not just the thinking person. Paolozzi’s work was included in the groundbreaking exhibition at the 1952 Venice Biennale of existentialist sculpture in the British Pavilion, alongside sculptors like Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Geoffrey Clarke and William Turnbull. In the 1950s Paolozzi was a key member of the Independent Group, which was bound up with the Institute of Contemporary Art. Alongside his cultural icons and totems, the resilience and fragility of the human person and the influence of humankind’s relationship with technology, expressed through the culture of science fiction and robots, also recur as themes in Paolozzi’s work.

Eduardo Paolozzi, Mr Cruikshank, 1950, Bronze with a brown patina, The Ingram collection of Modern and Contemporary British Art © The Trustees of the Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation.

A number of British sculptors in the 1960s, like Eduardo Paolozzi and Hubert Dalwood, made work in aluminium. A more contemporary material than bronze, it reflected something of the age of invention and technology in which they lived. Paolozzi said of the large form “Artificial Sun”, circa 1964, that his aim had been to “get away from the idea in sculpture of trying to make a Thing – in a way, going beyond the Thing, and trying to make a presence”. This artificial sun in prefabricated aluminium reflects the artist’s delight in language games. Beside the sculpture in the exhibition is a colour screenprint of the same title from the series “As is When”. Paolozzi produced this series as a reflection on the work of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein believed that a single proposition could stem from many more complex propositions – something which resonates with Paolozzi’s collage technique.

As a fine art auctioneer in Sussex, I have spent some twenty-nine years journeying with people and sharing the stories of their lives, told through their possessions. I have often reflected that the most precious objects in our lives are those that allow us to tell these stories – the prompts to fond memories. I refer to them as the “patchwork quilts” of our lives. Simon Martin responds, quoting Paolozzi, “All human experience is one big collage,” and he is right. Our human journeys reflect our strengths and our weaknesses, our hopes and our fears, and our joys and our sorrows – layered, at once disparate and united, like a collage – the resilience and fragility of humanity.

Exhibition Catalogue Cover

Simon Martin has once again produced an exemplary show, which affirms Eduardo Paolozzi’s reputation and place amongst Britain’s leading post-war artists. It is filled with what Simon refers to as “the witty juxtaposition of disparate images”. I hope it will capture and delight your imaginations as it has mine. This revealing and significant exhibition provides a unique insight into this important British artist of the cold-war era and runs until 13th October 2013. The exhibition catalogue, published by Pallant House Gallery and written by Simon Martin, is a must – elucidating on Paolozzi, his work and times. It is available at the Pallant House Bookshop, price £24.95 (special exhibition price £19.95, when visiting the exhibition). For more information and opening times, go to or telephone 01243 774557.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 31st July 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Pilgrim Spaces, Journeying in Our Modern Age

Chichester Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace
Chichester Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace

St Mary Magdalene’s life was celebrated this week on the 22nd July. She was described by the early church as Apostle to the Apostles. It was Mary who first saw the risen Lord and it was Jesus who sent her to take the news of his resurrection to the other disciples. As I have reflected on how she accompanied Jesus during his ministry, my thoughts have been drawn to the nature of pilgrimage, of journeying, in our modern age.

Pilgrimage spaces, whether sacred or not, can decipher or inform our perceptions of the world; they can gift us with an experience of the numinous. Whether a space is deemed holy or hollow will in part be determined by the degree of common narrative with which we approach it. Our perception of a particular built environment can be informed by historical context, ritual or role, explicit symbolism and our psychological interaction with the space.

People are bound together by their shared narrative. That we can tell something of the same story allows us to identify with one another and share a common identity. For example, many would argue that at the heart of what it is to be English is our monarchy, our landscape and our church, all of which are closely bound up with our island history. An English Tourist Board paper noted that in 2004 we made 68.7 million visits to historic properties in England, of which 32.4 million were to churches. Central to our attraction to these sacred buildings, beyond the common narrative, is the human activity of dwelling. Where we live, where we worship and our material possessions all enable us to articulate who we are and ground us not only in the procession of our own lives but also in the broader procession of human history.

Graham Sutherland at Chichester Cathedral
St Mary Magdalene Chapel, Chichester Cathedral, with Graham Sutherland’s ‘Noli Me Tangere’

Take, for example, the St Mary Magdalene Chapel in Chichester Cathedral. Central to this chapel is Graham Sutherland’s vibrant oil on canvas ‘Noli Me Tangere’ of 1961. Walter Hussey, famous as both a patron of the arts and as Dean of Chichester, called upon the first seven hundred years of the cathedral’s history and tradition, claiming that new work should be contemporary and not imitate the old. In his book ‘Patron of Art’ he notes that he had always hoped that Graham Sutherland would ‘do something at Chichester’. The sculptor Henry Moore had thought ‘that Graham Sutherland would be most suitable’ to paint a Crucifixion for St Matthew’s, Northampton, which Hussey commissioned. Sutherland’s now famous Crucifixion at St Matthew’s was installed in 1946. Sutherland, a Roman Catholic, was fulsome in his praise of Hussey’s vision and ability to carry people with him.

Looking towards the St Mary Magdalene Chapel down the south and choir aisles, we are struck by the transcendent quality and extraordinary length of this vista. Indeed, the architect Sir Basil Spence, who designed and oversaw the building of Coventry Cathedral after the Second World War, described this view as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Sutherland’s study initially strikes the viewer with the quality of a distant enamel jewel. As we journey towards this work, we are drawn into the intimate narrative described in chapter 20 of St John’s Gospel. Arriving at the chapel, we become aware that the painting depicts the moment on that first Easter morning when Mary becomes aware that she is in the presence of her risen Lord, who has just spoken her name. As she reaches out to touch him, his gesture stops her. The painting holds in tension Mary’s joy and the pending separation of a different kind. The angular composition of the figures, plants and staircase allude to the Passion narratives, which lead up to and include Jesus’ crucifixion. At the centre of the painting is Jesus Christ, dressed in white symbolising his holiness and purity. Christ’s finger points towards God the Father, symbolising His presence. Mary may not touch Jesus. This is the liminal moment where the artist invites us into the narrative so that we, like Mary, might acknowledge Jesus, our creator, teacher and friend, as advocate and redeemer of the whole world. Sutherland displays sensitivity and humility in the intimate scale of the painting, which at once connects the viewer with the narrative in a very personal way and allows them rest in this sacred space. The painting is complimented by the altar, designed by the then Cathedral Architect and Surveyor Robert Potter, and sculptor Geoffrey Clarke’s candlesticks, whose angular quality reflect the figures in Sutherland’s work.

Art galleries also provide pilgrimage spaces. Walter Hussey’s personal collection of art is displayed at Pallant House Gallery and a Crucifixion by Graham Sutherland is currently on display in the main galleries.

Chichester Cathedral is open daily with one of the finest collections of modern British art in the country, inspired by Walter Hussey as he strove to articulate a new hope, a new Jerusalem after the experience of two world wars. Next time you are in Chichester, treat yourself and for a moment dwell amongst the art in this sacred space; accept the gift of a generous punctuation mark, space in the busyness of our modern lives. There are often concerts and exhibitions at the Cathedral to delight children and adults alike; for more information go to

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 24th July 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

John Young: Gentleman Racer, Collector & Enthusiast

John Young racing his MG TC at Goodwood 1949
John Young in his MG TC at Goodwood 1951

The Sussex Downs have only just finished reverberating to the exuberant sound of racing cars and motorcycles at Goodwood Festival of Speed. Racing cars delight the senses with a cacophony of sound, the smell of racing oil and tyres and the spectacle of speed and colour. This week I am with my great friend John Young, a man whose life has been closely bound up with the fortunes of motor racing and automobiles. A works driver for the Connaught team in the 1950s, with drives at many of the great motor racing circuits and races, John Young is part of that glamorous and courageous cohort of racing drivers in the years after the Second World War.

When he left Dulwich College, John joined the R.A.F. “I wanted to fly a Spitfire,” he says, “but there were too many pilots just after the war for me to get a look in, so I left and joined the family firm, Rose and Young. We were agents for Mercedes-Benz.” He continues, “My father always wanted to race but my mother would never have let him. I was mad keen on cars when I was young and so he encouraged me.” John has always had a passion for glamour and speed and he is still mad keen about cars, having collected and owned some of the world’s most iconic automobiles. John’s enthusiasm has not diminished over the years. “I’ve still got my 1955 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing,” he says excitedly. The silver Gullwing is particularly special, the world’s first true supercar and in beautiful, original condition.

John Young racing his Healy Silverstone Chassis D20
John Young racing his Healy Silverstone Chassis D20 at Goodwood 1952

His first experience of speed came when he was taken to an airfield where Roy Salvadori was testing a Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica. John explains, “Roy came tearing to a halt beside where we were standing, asking for a passenger to balance the car and I volunteered!” This marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Roy Salvadori was an exceptional driver, winning at Le Mans in 1959 for Aston Martin and driving in more than fifty Formula One races. I ask John if he ever raced at Le Mans; he replies, “My mate Maurice Charles asked me to drive with him in his Jaguar D-type at Le Mans but he turned it over before I’d had a turn.”

John Young racing
John Young racing in the 1955 Goodwood Nine Hour Endurance Race in his Lotus-Connaught
John Young in his Ford Anglia on the XXVIme Monte Carlo Rally 1956

John Young raced at Goodwood, Silverstone and many of the famous circuits of his era. “We raced everything in those days,” he remarks. “I entered the Monte Carlo Rally with John Coombs and Roy Salvadori in a Ford Anglia and did the rally again with Graham Hill in a Riley 1.5. Even in my day, motor racing was becoming much more commercialized, but I started in an MG TC that my father bought me, which I raced at Goodwood. I then drove a Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica, which Coombs prepared for me.” Always the gentleman racer, in 1955 John was taken on as the works driver to the Connaught team. In 1956 he raced for them at Aintree alongside Mike Hawthorn, Roy Salvadori, Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss, who won the B.A.R.C. Grand Prix event in a privately entered 250F Maserati. “I owned a 250F Maserati Grand Prix car,” John says nonchalantly, a grin crossing his face. “I used it in the Brighton Speed Trials in the 1960s before I sold it to Fangio for his South American museum. Fangio was an extraordinary driver.”

John Young and Graham Hill in a Riley 1.5
John Young and Graham Hill in a Riley 1.5 on the XXVIIme Monte Carlo Rally 1958

In 1955 John raced in the Goodwood Nine Hours Endurance Race in a Lotus-Connaught, seen here. His co-driver was John Coombs, who, like John Young, also had a successful garage business and was instrumental in developing and persuading Jaguar to build a lightweight E-type to compete with the 250GTO Ferrari. “We were going well in the Connaught and racing into the evening,” John explains, “until Coombs came in saying his hands were cold and borrowed my gloves. Shortly after that he turned it over but, thank God, he was alright!”

John Young 250F Maserati 1960s
John Young in his 250F Maserati at the Brighton Speed Trials in the 1960s

John Young was offered a drive in a Connaught at the 1955 Dundrod TT in Ireland with a talented young driver Bill Smith. John recounts the story of the race. “We tossed-up to decide who would drive first. He won the toss but was killed at Deer’s Leap during that first stint.” John is still clearly affected by the memory of this loss. Two other drivers lost their lives at Dundrod in 1955. With such high safety standards in modern motor racing, it is hard to reflect on how dangerous the sport was in those post-war years. Philosophically John remarks, “You have no fear when you’re young and we had a good time in those days. It was exciting – the racing, the camaraderie, the travelling and the pretty girls!”

I ask John if he has raced since and he answers, “I gave up motor racing in the 1950s and took up boats – did a few things like the Fastnet Race – but I have done some classic car events like the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival in an Alfa Romeo 2.6, which I drove with John Coombs.”

John Young, co-driver to his friend John Coombs in a 2.6 Alfa Romeo in the 1988 Mille Miglia Revival

As I leave, I ask him why he doesn’t live in Monaco with his peers and he gestures towards the South Downs and replies, “Oh, I’ve had yachts down there but I love England. Look at that view – why would you want to be anywhere else!” His delight in sharing a story and his enthusiasm are balanced by his self-effacing modesty. A generous man, John Young epitomises the best of his era: a gentleman racer, a collector and an enthusiast with a deep love of life, cars and the Sussex countryside.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 17th July 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

The Art of the Garden at Parham House

Cascading summer flowers in the Great Hall at Parham
Cascading summer flowers in the Great Hall at Parham

The park and gardens at Parham reflect a timeless English love of landscape and horticulture. They contain many rare specimens, ranging from lichens to ancient oaks, which work in concert with the surrounding downland landscape. In the walled garden, the swathes of summer flowers, box-hedged ornamental vegetables and espalier fruit trees are complemented by an array of medieval and Tudor culinary and medicinal herbs.

Lady Emma and James Barnard
Lady Emma and her husband, James Barnard, delighting in the cutting beds in Parham’s walled gardens

Regular readers of this column will know that Clive and Alicia Pearson bought Parham in 1922 and set about restoring the house and gardens after years of neglect. Mrs Pearson loved to fill the house with fresh-cut summer flowers, arranged in what she called the “Parham way”. Lady Emma Barnard, the current custodian of Parham House and gardens, acknowledges her great-grandmother’s influence on the walled garden today. “Alicia’s love of blocks of colour and fluid forms is reflected in the naturalistic effect of the planting in the garden,” she says. “My great-grandmother wrote instructions on the flower arrangements for the house, especially in relation to colours, so that they would complement the collections of the rooms in which they were placed. We still follow her notes today!”

Mrs Pearson’s tastes reflected those of her generation. She embraced the modern whilst keeping a firm eye on the past. The famous florist and designer Constance Spry also drew from nature. She inspired a generation with her naturalistic taste before and after the Second World War – perhaps she was inspired by the special “Parham way”. As you journey around Lady Emma’s delightful home, you notice that each room has a flower arrangement which draws your eye to the treasures before you and the play of light upon them. My eye is caught by the cascading array of summer flowers shown here against the cool hue of the limed oak panelling in the Great Hall. The flowers bring the colours of the flanking tapestries to life in an unexpected, beautiful way.

Parham’s gardens are particularly fine this year. The swathes of summer flowers seem to dance in the gentle breeze. They frame the paths as you approach the orchard and the vegetable and herb beds with their clipped box hedge borders.

Oil on canvas by Harold Clayton
Oil on canvas by Harold Clayton, discovered in Sussex by Rupert

Lady Emma and her husband, James, are keen to show me the cutting beds where all the flowers for the house are grown. In amongst the brightly coloured blocks of flowers Emma declares, “We are always keen to take the naturalistic into the house – cow-parsley and even bolted rocket can be very good in arrangements.”

The work of British artist Harold Clayton (1896-1979) was shaped by his love of the garden and his attention to detail. Like the taste expressed in the special “Parham way”, Clayton took the Dutch still life of the 17th century and made it modern. This taste is much sought after today. I discovered the oil painting by him shown here some years ago. Today it would realise £6000-8000 at auction, testament to the enduring popularity of the English country house and garden aesthetic expressed so beautifully and timelessly at Parham.

Parham’s 20th Annual Garden Weekend is this coming weekend, Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th July 2013, between 10.30am and 5.00pm each day. It is a must for all of us who love gardens but don’t forget to check out the beautiful flower arrangements in the house! For more information go to or telephone 01903 742021.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 10th July 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.