Frank Brangwyn at Horsham

Frank Brangwyn – St Paul Shipwrecked, Christ’s Hospital cartoon

Brangwyn in Horsham has just opened at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery and it is an exceptional exhibition.

Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) was a significant and influential artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries though he did not fit comfortably with the English art establishment. There is a growing revival of interest in his work. This timely exhibition centres on a selection of cartoons produced by Brangwyn for Christ’s Hospital which have not been seen by the public since they were last exhibited in London in 1924.

The show comes out of the latest collaboration between the Curators of the Horsham and Christ’s Hospital museums, Jeremy Knight and Laura Kidner.

As a charitable school Christ’s Hospital has to direct all its resources to offering an independent education of the highest calibre to children with academic potential from all walks of life. Consequently it is a child’s ability and potential to benefit from a Christ’s Hospital education that determines their selection not their ability to pay. Therefore the cartoons have only recently been able to be conserved thanks to the support of the Horsham District Council’s 2019 Year of Culture fund, providing an important legacy to this year-long celebration of heritage and culture.

Frank Brangwyn – Crucifixion, oil on board

It is wonderful to see the cartoons by Brangwyn so beautifully conserved. They are squared up to enable them to be enlarged and transferred onto the series of panels he painted for the Christ’s Hospital chapel. The panels follow a procession from the Acts of the Apostles to the conversion of Britain to Christianity and the mission of the Church of England.

The cartoon seen here is the study for the panel ‘St Paul Shipwrecked’. Paul travelled to Rome to face judgement after the disciple Ananias had healed his sight. St Paul is depicted with his hands raised in blessing giving thanks to God after they were delivered from the shipwreck – as it says in the Acts of the Apostles ‘And so it came to pass that all escaped safe to land’.

The panels are important not just as fine examples of Brangwyn’s work, but also because they form part of a common narrative amongst modern British artists at the time who sought to reaffirm what it is to be British and to redeem our nation from the experience of the first industrialized world war. The panels are honest about the costs of standing up for righteousness with illustrations of Christian martyrs, many associated with Britain. But they are also hopeful clearly depicting the triumph of good over evil.

Appropriately two pencil drawings by Brangwyn from Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s own collection are on show for the first time together with other works by the artist loaned from private collections including the painterly crucifixion seen here and examples of his ceramics.

The exhibition, Brangwyn in Horsham, leads a growing renaissance of interest in this significant artist. It runs at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE, until the 23rd March 2019 providing a rare opportunity to see these exceptional works and admission is free. The exhibition will then move to Christ’s Hospital Museum. For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Toy Fundraiser at Horsham Museum

Toovey’s toy valuation event in support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery has become an extremely popular annual fundraising event. Toovey’s specialist toys valuer, Christopher Gale, will be at the museum on Saturday, 16th February 2018, between 10am and 12noon providing free auction valuations and advice on your toy trains, cars, Star Wars action figures, models, teddy bears, dolls and collectors’ toys.

A number of valuable toys have been discovered at previous events. Chris Gale who is donating his time explains: “A third of the seller’s commission for items subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated by us to 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 16th February, 10am to 12 noon. Toovey’s next specialist toy sale will be held on 19th March 2018.

National Trust’s International Exhibition at Petworth

The National Trust’s landmark exhibition Prized Possessions has just returned from The Mauritshuis museum in the Hague to Petworth House in Sussex.

The Mauritshuis houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings which includes many of the finest Dutch Golden Age paintings including Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Nevertheless long queues formed to see Prized Possessions which speaks of the importance of the works on show in this exhibition.

Prized Possessions builds on the tradition established at Petworth House by house and collections manager Andrew Loukes of re-examining the collections and art of the National Trust. In the 17th and 18th centuries Dutch art informed English taste. It is wonderful to see these works displayed in the context of, arguably, England’s finest country house. Petworth has a fine collection of Dutch masters.

The exhibition reflects the diversity of subjects and styles in Dutch Golden Age art with wonderful religious scenes, landscapes still lifes and portraits. Prized Possessions has been curated by David Taylor and Rupert Goulding. The paintings on show are amongst the most celebrated and prized in the National Trust’s collections. The visitor to Petworth will uniquely also be able to see a selection of Dutch masters generously loaned by Lord Egremont from his private collection.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Self-Portrait, wearing a Feathered Bonnet, c.1635, oil, signed and dated © National Trust

As you enter the exhibition gallery you are met by Rembrandt van Rijn’s remarkable ‘Self-Portrait, wearing a Feathered Bonnet.’ There is such life to the portrait. It displays the psychological insight and unsurpassed technique which underpins Rembrandt’s reputation as an artist. Here we see Rembrandt’s confidence at the height of his wealth and fame.

The portrait is typical of the popular tronie genre where the sitter is depicted in costume playing some sort of role. Rembrandt’s costume with its velvet bonnet decorated with ostrich feathers, the gorget armour and aristocratic hair lends the painting a timeless quality. His pose and the dramatic use of light seems to unite sitter and viewer.

The portrait is signed and dated 1635, the year that the artist and his wife Saskia moved to the fashionable Nieuwe Doelenstraat in Amsterdam.

Until recently the portrait was attributed to one of Rembrandt’s pupils, Govaert Flinck. However, recent scientific and historical research has established the painting as one of a large group of some forty autograph self-portraits by Rembrandt.

Simon Pietersz Verelst (1644-1721), Prince Rupert of the Rhine c.1680-82, oil © National Trust.

The portrait of Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-1682) by Simon Pietersz Verelst is of contrasting style. The painting forms part of Petworth’s permanent collection and depicts Prince Rupert in middle age after the restoration of his cousin Charles II. He wears the robes of the Order of the Garter. Verelst employs light and colour beautifully to emphasise the opulence and power expressed in his attire.

The exhibition is a cabinet of exquisite paintings and the context of Petworth House and its exhibition rooms allows us to re-examine these prized possessions and their influence on English Country House taste with fresh eyes.

I am delighted that Toovey’s are once again supporting Petworth House’s exhibition program.

Prized Possessions is a jewel like exhibition and a must see. The show is sure to be a sell out so book early. For more information on the exhibition, to book tickets and for opening times visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Andrew Bernardi, Sussex Creative and Entrepreneur

This week I am in the company of the musician and Artistic Director of the Shipley Arts Festival, Andrew Bernardi, as he prepares to launch the festival’s 2019 program of concerts across the Horsham district and beyond. Andrew is one of a number of creatives at the heart of our county’s rich arts offering.

I have long been a passionate advocate and supporter of building communities through arts and heritage in West Sussex, values which I share with Andrew Bernardi.

I ask Andrew what inspired him to become a musician. He replies “I come from a musical family, my Mother was playing piano at a Mozart concert where my parents met. They had no intention of making me a professional musician, to the contrary actually. But I realised when I was about six that I had to be a musician, that it was my vocation. My Godmother gave me my first full-sized violin and I’ve still got it. It looked big on me but I’ve only ever played full-sized violins.”

Andrew would win a place at the Skinner’s School. He continues “Everyone encouraged me in my music but it was suggested that there were safer careers.”

Andrew led the Kent Youth Orchestra. He describes how winning the Lawrence Atwell scholarship for violinists to go to the United States and Brazil with the Youth Orchestra was life changing. He says “I studied alongside a golden generation of musicians, we have all gone on to leading roles in the music world. In Brazil we stayed with top people but I became aware that the waiters came out of the Favelas and that they could have been us if we’d grown up there. It changed us and I realised that I wanted to do something for society through my music.”

Having read music at Leeds he taught at Worth Abbey where he formed their Community Orchestra and his Chamber Ensemble. The qualities of Benedictine Christian spirituality still resonate with him.

It was at Trinity College London, whilst working on his post-graduate scholarship, that Andrew’s entrepreneurial qualities were first recognised, “They told me I would be a successful violinist but as important was my ability to bring things together and make them work.” This insight has been borne out by Andrew Bernardi’s career as a violinist and by starting the Shipley Arts Festival which is now acknowledged as being one of the UK’s most highly regarded Classical Music Festivals.

Andrew’s support of young, talented musicians through his String Academy gives voice to his belief in community and creating opportunity for others.

The String Academy has strong links to the Yehudi Menuhin School thanks to Andrew’s work. It is clear that Yehudi Menuhin influenced him, “He conducted me and I led for him on several occasions. I admired his sense of humanity, his facilitation of communities through outstanding music making, and creating pathways and opportunities for young musicians – things that I aspire to.”

Andrew’s life as a violinist has taken him all over the world but it is his family and being rooted in the heart of Sussex with its gentle hills, countryside, towns and communities which feed and inspire him.

He walks in the footsteps of some illustrious musicians and composers here in Sussex including John Ireland, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Sir Edward Elgar. His work reflects a sense of calling and vocation to continue this musical tradition in our county. Through the festival and its patrons Andrew Bernardi, continues to commission new and exciting work from some of our nation’s leading contemporary composers including Roderick Williams., OBE, and Malcom Singer.

I ask him what his violin means to him. He reflects “With the Stradivarius violin I finally hear the sounds I imagined. It’s a very personal relationship a musician and their instrument.”

Relationships are important to the success of the Shipley Arts Festival and the array of international musicians who return year after year are responding to the aspirations, loyalty and vision of its Artistic Director, Andrew Bernardi.

The 2019 Shipley Arts Festival season will be exceptional. To find out more go to www.shipleyartsfestival.co.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Lucie Rie and the Art of Studio Ceramics

The Austrian born Jewish potter Dame Lucie Rie., DBE (1902-1995) was arguably the most influential potter of the Post–War period with an international reputation. In 1938 Lucie Rie left Nazi Austria and made London her home.

Rie was first exposed to ceramics when she attended the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule art school. She would later record that from her first encounter with the potter’s wheel she was ‘lost to it’.

Her ideas and work was 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 later stoneware.

When Rie first arrived in England her work did not receive the critical acclaim she had enjoyed in Vienna and across Europe.

The famous British potter, Bernard Leach, was amongst her critics. He characterized her work as too thin and lacking in humanity. Despite this rocky start the two potters would become good friends and Rie would profoundly influence British and International Post-War Studio Ceramics.

Lucie Rie stoneware teapot and cover with its dark brown/black shiny glaze beneath an applied bamboo handle was purchased from Heal’s in the 1950s

After the war in 1948 Rie began working in stoneware. She adapted Bernard Leach’s porcelain recipe and added lead to his black glaze to produce a wonderful silky black mirror-like glaze. The Lucie Rie stoneware teapot you see here was made for Heal’s in the 1950s. The brown/black glaze with the white tin glazed band is typical of her tableware. These pieces are highly sought after and Toovey’s sold this example for £3800.

Lucie Rie exercised great control in the making of her pots. Throwing rings were smoothed away and glaze applied with a brush and gum arabic to help it bond so that its subtlety and thickness could be precisely judged.

Despite Rie’s approach her pots never appear mechanical, rather there is a fluidity, a poetry to their form and decoration. The wide rims and flowing forms of her bowls and pots are a testament to the precision of her throwing.

Lucie Rie studio pottery stoneware bottle with flared asymmetrical rim and ovalled neck, covered in a pink and blue volcanic glaze

The Lucie Rie pot illustrated gains life from its dramatically flared asymmetrical rim as she departs from the round with an ovalled neck. Here she employs her deeply pitted volcanic glaze with a subtle and exquisite range of colour variations. This pot carries a pre-sale estimate of £5000-8000 and is one of a number of pieces by some of Britain’s leading studio ceramicists already entered for Toovey’s specialist Studio Pottery sale. The auction will be held on Friday 22nd March 2019 and further entries are still being invited.

Lucie Rie would exhibit internationally including the 1951 Festival of Britain, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and at Bonniers in New York.

The importance and influence of her work is unquestionable. Lucie Rie transformed modern ceramics. She is arguably the most important ceramicist of the Post-War period and her ceramics still command the attention of international connoisseurs.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.