Virginia Woolf’s writings are an inspiration

Dame Laura Knight, The Dark Pool (1908–1918), Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE, RA, 2018. All Rights Reserved

This summer’s must see exhibition in Sussex has just opened at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. It is titled ‘Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings’.

Inspired by the writing of Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), it explores women’s suffrage and the metaphors of landscape, the room and still lives; bringing together more than eighty works by leading Modern British and Contemporary women artists. The exhibition is born out of a partnership between Tate St Ives, Pallant House Gallery and The Fitzwilliam.

This visually stunning, light-filled show is beautifully curated and hung. The domestic scale of many of the paintings and objects are brought to life at Pallant House as the narrative of the exhibition cleverly unfolds in a series of rooms.
Although this is not a biographical exhibition it illustrates how Virginia Woolf constantly drew on her relationships and experiences in her writing to articulate a sense of self and place.

In her early childhood she spent every summer at Talland House in St Ives. She would recall how formative these early recollections were in A Sketch of the Past: ‘…lying half-asleep, half awake, in bed in the nursery of St Ives…hearing the waves breaking, one, two, one, two, and sending a splash of water over the beach; and then breaking, one, two, one, two, behind a yellow blind.’ Laura Knight’s oil painting, The Dark Pool similarly captures a fascination with the sea as a young woman stands on the rocks beside a shore looking reflectively into the pool’s depths, free in her thoughts. For Woolf the Landscape would often become a metaphor for a new freedom and power for women. In contrast through the metaphor of the room she would express the ambiguity in a place of potential autonomy and liberation which also symbolised societal restraint over women at the time.

Vanessa Bell, View of the Pond at Charleston, East Sussex, c.1919, oil on canvas, Museums Sheffield © Estate of Vanessa Bell / Henrietta Garnett

Vanessa Bell’s outward facing, liberated oil of the Pond at Charleston in Sussex is filled with light, movement and hope. It combines the landscape, room and still life.

Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell were sisters and throughout their lives they inspired and influenced each other’s work. They gathered around them a circle of influential Modern British women artists, many of whom are represented in the show.

Sussex, like Cornwall, played a significant part in Woolf’s life and work. Indeed Vanessa Bell only moved to Charleston in 1916 on her sister’s recommendation. The house would become a meeting place for the Bloomsbury Group.

In 1919 Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard bought Monk’s House in the village of Rodmell in East Sussex where she would live until her suicide in 1941. This 17th century cottage allowed her to write in the tranquillity of the Sussex Downs near to her elder sister Vanessa Bell who was extremely important to Woolf’s sense of her own self and wellbeing. Woolf loved to discuss art with her sister. This desire to learn was both personal and intellectual. It brought her closer to her sister and artistic friends who included Dora Carrington, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry and the author Vita Sackville-West.

I am delighted that Toovey’s, together with De’Longhi and Irwin Mitchell, are amongst the headline sponsors and supporters of this exceptional exhibition. ‘Virginia Woolf: an exhibition inspired by her writings’ runs at the Pallant House Gallery, Chichester throughout the summer until 16th September 2018.

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.

Edward Bawden Exhibition Unites Sussex with Dulwich

Edward Bawden, ‘Brighton Pier’, 1958, Linocut on paper, Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery (The Higgins Bedford), © Estate of Edward Bawden
Edward Bawden, ‘Brighton Pier’, 1958, Linocut on paper, Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery (The Higgins Bedford), © Estate of Edward Bawden

The work and life of the modern British artist Edward Bawden (1903-1989) is being celebrated at the Dulwich Picture Gallery with a major retrospective exhibition.

This excellent exhibition has been curated by James Russell. It is chronologically hung which gifts the show with a strong narrative allowing you to see Edward Bawden’s development as an artist and the techniques and themes which unite his work.

Edward Bawden has links with Sussex and not least through his lifelong friendship with Eric Ravilious who he met whilst studying at the Royal College of Art in London. Both men studied under the artist Paul Nash, who was generous in encouraging and promoting their work.

Edward Bawden is perhaps most famous for his graphic work and illustrations. I am particularly fond of his bold, colourful linocut prints like ‘Brighton Pier’ from 1958. The composition brings together Brighton’s famous Royal Pavilion, Palace Pier and the Regency Town House. Bawden’s subtle depiction of the shadow and texture on the waves and the light cast by the lamps contrasts with his typically bold graphic style employed in the representation of the Pier’s complex ironwork. Bawden lived in Brighton briefly in the 1950s and produced a number of works depicting the city.

Edward Bawden, ‘Untitled landscape with Sunset’, 1927, watercolour on paper, Private Collection, © Estate of Edward Bawden
Edward Bawden, ‘Untitled landscape with Sunset’, 1927, watercolour on paper, Private Collection, © Estate of Edward Bawden

Edward Bawden’s observations of the British at leisure, architecture, animals, gardens, the mythical, and his love of storytelling are often observed with humour. His distinguished work as a war artist is also represented and explored.
A particular treat is to see so many of Edward Bawden’s watercolours. They have not always attracted the attention they deserve. The artist’s approach to this most English of mediums reflects his modern sensibilities. The graphic, linear approach employed in ‘Untitled landscape with Sunset’ reflects a very English modernism which fuses tradition with new ways of seeing and painting. The texture, light and movement of the breeze playing across the field of corn and lines of trees beneath the burning red sun place lends a fresh and particular voice to the English Romantic tradition.

The chronological quality of this superb show highlights the way in which his work in a variety of mediums informed one another and the evolution of his style.

The exhibition brings together some 160 works from the diverse oeuvre of this master printmaker, illustrator, watercolourist and designer. Of these more than half are rarely seen having been borrowed from private collections and the artist’s family.

‘Edward Bawden’ runs at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until 9th September 2018 and is one of this year’s must see summer exhibitions. For more information go to www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.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.

There’s a Power in Love

A view from Chantry Hill on the Sussex Downs
A view from Chantry Hill on the Sussex Downs

On Saturday the people of Sussex sent their heartfelt congratulations and prayers to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day.

The May blossom shone in the sunlight its brilliant white matched by Meghan’s dress against the uninterrupted deep blue skies across Sussex and Windsor.
Storrington, like so many villages across Sussex, was decorated with Union Jacks and bunting celebrating the marriage of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The morning brought an additional cause for celebration as we learned that HM the Queen had made the wedding couple the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the first time the title has been used in some 175 years.

Over the centuries our nation’s history and identity has been bound up with our Royal family, our Church and our Landscape. Like the stories of our own families Britain’s recall both joys and sorrows.

The Revd. Rupert Toovey watching the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Revd. Rupert Toovey watching the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

We gathered with family and friends around our televisions to share in this hope filled moment in our national life and the life of the Commonwealth. The BBC was at its best.

The American Bishop the Most Reverend Michael Curry spoke eloquently and with passion to the ear of our hearts about the power of love and its ability to heal, to redeem and to undo the ills of our world.
He proclaimed “Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There is something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source…Ultimately, the source of love is God himself.”

As this remarkable couple processed along the streets of Windsor in their open topped carriage accompanied by the cheers of the crowd I left home for a celebration of life and faith of a different kind.

In the Parish Church of St Mary’s, Storrington I joined with hundreds of others to witness, pray for and celebrate the Ordination of four new Church of England Priests: The Reverends Colin Cox, Stephen Mills, Harriet Neale-Stevens and Martha Weatherill. There was a powerful sense of love and the Holy Spirit as the Bishop of Horsham, The Right Reverend Mark Sowerby, prayed the Ordination prayer over each of them.

In the early evening I found myself walking with my family along the ancient paths of the Sussex Downs at the back of Storrington on Chantry Hill. As the Larks’ song filled the air I reflected upon what a beautiful day it had been – filled with love and blessing. The Downland landscape’s beauty has held my heart for as long as I can remember and it resonated with the day which had passed. Sussex blesses me with the qualities of rootedness and community which inform my life and prayer day by day.

Spring brings new life and new beginnings and so it is with confidence that I pray that our new Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be blessed by their life together, by God and our county.

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.

 

World Premier of the Shipley Psalms

The Shipley Arts Festival performing at Steyning Parish Church
The Shipley Arts Festival performing at Steyning Parish Church

This week I am in the company of the composer and conductor Malcolm Singer who is putting the finishing touches to The Shipley Psalms which will be premiered on Sunday 3rd June as part of the Shipley Arts and Steyning Festivals at Steyning Parish Church.

The inspiration for this commission came out of a conversation between myself, Andrew and Malcolm. We were discussing the American composer Leonard Bernstein’s choral work, The Chichester Psalms, which was commissioned by the cathedral’s organist John Birch and The Very Revd. Dean Walter Hussey for the 1965 Southern Cathedral Festival at Chichester Cathedral. Bernstein incorporated some of the motifs from his most famous work, West Side Story, particularly in the second movement. This new commission has been made possible by the generous patronage of The Shipley Arts Festival and Mr John Snelling.

The composer and conductor, Malcolm Singer
The composer and conductor, Malcolm Singer

A Reform Jew (rather like Bernstein) Malcolm Singer has spent a lifetime in the service of music as a composer, conductor and educator encouraging and teaching the finest young musicians as the former Director of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music and now as Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He talks about the importance of music in education and how he admires the Shipley Arts Festival Director, Andrew Bernardi’s work with young musicians in Sussex through the Festival’s String Academy. His involvement with the Shipley Arts Festival over many years came about through the outreach work of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music supporting the String Academy whilst Malcolm was Director.

Our conversation moves to Malcolm Singer’s time in Paris as a young man. He says “I was taught by Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger. A devout Catholic she was like a guru to me as we explored spirituality and philosophy through music. She developed an understanding of the importance of awareness and memory in me. When I arrived she told me I was very talented but unprepared, which I knew. Her lessons were very tough but loving – she was always challenging you – a tender tyrant. She taught many of the 20th century’s leading musicians and composers including Aaron Copland. Yehudi Menuhin and Leonard Bernstein worshipped her. Mademoiselle Boulanger sent me to observe Bernstein’s rehearsals, recordings and for one to one sessions with him. I observed the discipline in his compositions, conducting and control.”

Malcolm acknowledges that there is no freedom without discipline and the importance of acquiring the vocabulary to express yourself to the fullest extent.

He tells me how he has often conducted Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms which will be sung by The Royal Holloway University choir together with his new Shipley Psalms. I ask him to describe his new musical settings and he responds “They are reflective and fun. The Psalms in liturgical Hebrew are beautiful, poetic and inspiring. Together with the choir Andrew and his Stradivarius violin will have a prominent role.” I remark how empowering the familiar repeated rhythms of worship can be to our spirituality. Malcolm responds “…spirituality by making and listening to music which you rarely get anywhere else – it’s a form of prayer.” I agree.

It is exciting to see new music being composed for the Church in the year in which we celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. The evening will also include Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto conducted by Malcolm Singer with soloists Bruce Martin (Flute) and Cecily Beer (Harp).

With such a rich patchwork quilt of relationships and talent it promises to be a remarkable evening. To find out more about the 2018 Shipley Arts and Steyning Festivals visit www.bmglive.com/shipley-arts-festival, or www.steyningfestival.co.uk. To book tickets for the Steyning concert go to www.thecapitolhorsham.com or telephone 01403 750220.

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.

The West Horsley Place Collection

West Horsley Place – Photo © Richard Lewisohn

Toovey’s are pleased to announce that our forthcoming specialist sale of books on 15th May includes a collection of volumes from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.Lots 3001-3179 in this auction have been consigned from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.

The estate was inherited in 2014 by Bamber Gascoigne from his great aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. In 2015 Bamber gave ownership of the house and estate to a newly created charitable trust: the Mary Roxburghe Trust. The Trust’s mission is to restore the Grade I listed manor house (currently on Historic England’s ‘Heritage At Risk Register’) and its estate, with the aim of creating a vibrant centre for the performing and visual arts as well as the teaching of crafts. An expert on prints and the writer of many books himself, Bamber is popularly known as the original host of University Challenge. While not living in the house itself, he has been overseeing its conservation and transformation, which has included the building within the grounds of the 700-seat Theatre in the Woods by Grange Place Opera, who hold a summer opera season at West Horsley Place. Funds raised from this sale of selected volumes from the library will be used towards the ongoing restoration work, all part of the Mary Roxburghe Trust’s long-term plan. For more information on the house and the work of the Mary Roxburghe Trust, visit www.westhorsleyplace.org.

The Library at West Horsley Place

The library was assembled by Robert Milnes-Crewe, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945) and his father Richard Monckton-Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809-1885). Lord Houghton was a great man of letters, a poet, politician and patron of literature. He wrote the first biography of Keats in 1848, was a close friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson and helped to make Ralph Waldo Emerson become known in Britain. His particular interest was in French literature, especially of the revolutionary period.

Lord Houghton’s son, Lord Crewe, (bookplate above) was a Liberal statesman, who served as Secretary of State for India between 1910 and 1915. He was also Leader of the House of Lords, where he played a very significant and progressive role in removing their own veto, as well as various positions within the education sector. He was a contemporary of Winston Churchill, friend of H.H. Asquith and son-in-law to Prime Minister Lord Rosebery. The astonishing library of books, collected over generations, mainly reflects Lord Crewe’s wide interests, including his literary friendships with war-time poets, his travels to India and the East, his political career and his cultural connections. The books provide an intimate window onto the period and give the sense of a decent, moderate man who was administratively overseeing considerable change.

“Sorting through and cataloguing the books of both father and son has been an absolute pleasure. It’s been a chance to speculate on the changes England underwent from Victorian times, through the trauma of a World War and into a changed 20th century” says Toovey’s Book Specialist Charlie Howe.

The collection will be offered at Toovey’s Spring Gardens rooms on May 15th 2018. View the collection via the online catalogue here.