Toy Valuation Fundraiser for Horsham Museum

Toovey’s toy specialist Chris Gale with an array of collectors toys including a boxed Triang Wrenn locomotive, a Bassett-Lowke lifeboat and other tinplate and die-cast toys

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale who is preparing for his annual toy valuation fundraising event on the morning of Saturday 14th March at the Horsham Museum.

Chris remarks “People are often unaware of how valuable their old toys are and this free auction valuation event gives people the chance to find out and benefit the Horsham Museum as well.”

“Since 2002 I’ve sold more than £1.5 million pounds of toys and models for collectors from across Sussex and the UK in Toovey’s specialist auctions.”

A Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus with external staircase and driver canopy, lithographed with destination boards and advertisements

I ask Chris to describe a few of his favourite toys. He pauses and says “One of my favourite toys was the Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus which sold for £2800. It was beautifully made. Remarkable quality, especially as by the 1920s Bing was one of Germany’s most prolific toy manufacturers. The designs were lithographed onto steel sheets. The designs were then stamped out of the metal and assembled using tabs and slots. The Great Depression brought the company into decline and with the rise of the Nazis the Jewish Bing family came to England.”

An 18th century turned, carved and painted wooden swivel-head doll

“The 18th century turned, carved and painted wooden swivel-head doll I discovered was also exceptional. She had brown hair, black glass eyes, red painted lips and cheeks and the lined eyebrows were emphasised with dots. Her jointed body was wooden except for the upper arms which were stuffed with cotton. The doll came with a letter from the family stating it was bought new in Bath by an Ann Gibbs with her uncle Admiral Gayton in 1790, wonderful provenance, it realised £6400.”

A number of valuable toys have been discovered at previous Horsham Museum valuation events. Chris Gale who is donating his time explains: “If items valued at the event are subsequently consigned for auction with us at Toovey’s we will give a third of our seller’s commission to the Horsham Museum to help with its important work.”

For a morning of fun and free pre-sale valuations come to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE on Saturday 14th March, 10am to 12 noon. Toovey’s next specialist toy sale will be held on 20th May 2020.

Sussex Artist Alison Milner-Gulland – A Life in Art

The artist Alison Milner-Gulland in her studio

A retrospective exhibition ‘Alison Milner-Gulland – A Life in Art’ opens at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery on Saturday 7th March 2020. This gifted Sussex artist has been reflecting on her creative life as her 80th birthday approaches.
Alison Milner-Gulland, like the seasons of the year, returns to a cycle of subjects that have always inspired her: the ancient, Sussex and the Downs, iconography, Russia and the Middle East, Oxford, antiquity and the human form, and music. As this retrospective exhibition illustrates one informs the other.

Alison Milner-Gulland’s oil painting, ‘Buddington Bottom’

These subjects directly record the artist’s life and her experience of the world. Alison will often re-visit a piece and re-work it many times reflecting the layers she perceives as she interprets the world around her. Alison’s work is not linear, she zig zags about so the date of a piece is not always relevant or remembered, her pictures develop and evolve as she continues to work on them giving expression to her connectedness with the world she inhabits.

For more than a decade my brother, Nick, and I have visited Alison at her studio which nestles at the foot of the South Downs. Nick describes it as “An amazing space – well-organized chaos, framed works are hung wherever wall-space permits or stacked on the floor. After being greeted by the family’s Jack Russell terrier, Dotty, and navigating a maze of pictures, mounting materials and packaging you come to the main work area of the cottage studio. Here an architect’s chest conceals numerous unframed prints, stacked on top of these are further prints, oils on canvas and works in progress beneath works drying on a washing line. Occasionally the sound of her nearby chickens, geese, guinea fowl or sheep are heard from outside. Negotiating the livestock and braving the elements you come to a separate studio dedicated to Alison’s work in ceramics. A colder but brighter and neater space, inherently slightly dusty from the powders, glazes and clays used to create the work. Along two walls are shelves displaying recent vessels, mostly figurative or musically inspired, but with a few trial abstracted landscape designs scattered amongst them.”

Alison Milner-Gulland’s ceramic pot, ‘Galloping Horses’

Alison has been drawing since she was old enough to hold a pencil.
From her teens until only a few years ago Alison regularly rode in the South Downs committing to memory the play of light and the elements on the landscape bound up with the movement of her horse. The elevated perspective that riding affords is evident in many of her landscapes. Alison has often remarked how in her imagination the rhythm of the horse combines with the movement in the landscape, a theme which recurs in her work.

The exhibition is brought alive through Alison’s comments – reminiscences which inform and accompany the works on display.

At first glance Alison’s work is accessible and uncomplicated, but over time the work reveals layers, subtle details and evolving depths, a spirituality, all of which serve the talent of this gifted artist.

Each of the works reflect the layered rhythm of this artist’s life. Her practice is reflective and always layered. This visual-poet in the landscape allows us to glimpse our place in the procession of human history, and something beyond our immediate perception of the world.

It is these qualities which gift Alison Milner-Gulland’s work with such a particular and distinctive artistic voice.

Alison Milner- Gulland – a Life in Art opens on the 7th March and runs until 27th June 2020 at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. This is an exceptional exhibition and entry is free. To find out more visit www.horshammuseum.org.

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.

Toovey’s Directors-Tom Rowsell, Rupert and Nick Toovey
Image courtesy of Graham Franks Photography

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.