‘Paul Nash – The Clare Neilson Gift’ at Pallant House

Clare Neilson, Photograph of Paul Nash, Pallant House Gallery, The Clare Neilson Gift through the Art Fund

An insightful show of work by the 20th century British artist Paul Nash opened at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester earlier this week, including wood engravings, etchings, photographs, collage and illustrated books.

The work provides a rare insight into the relationship between patron and artist, as shown by the photograph taken of Paul Nash by collector Clare Neilson. Their very particular friendship was first formed while Nash was living in and around Rye in the 1930s. It is fitting then that this collection should find its new permanent home in Sussex, thanks to the generosity of Clare Neilson’s godson Jeremy Greenwood and the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art.

Simon Martin, Head of Collections at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, is delighted by the gift of the Neilson Collection, which also includes correspondence. “It is a significant addition to Pallant House Gallery’s collection of Modern British Art,” he acknowledged, “and a fascinating and personal view into friendship and artistic patronage in the 1930s and ‘40s.”

Paul Nash is often thought of as an essentially English artist but between the wars he also sought to champion the hope embodied in continental modernism, defending Picasso and experimenting with abstraction before embracing Surrealism. He served as a soldier in the trenches of the Great War and subsequently worked as a war artist on the Western Front between 1917 and 1918 and again during the Second World War. This body of work provides a stark commentary on the reality of war.

He was drawn to objects sculpted by nature and had what some have described as an overriding habit of metaphor. Trees, for example, could take on the character of stones. This serves to highlight the poetic nature of his painting and how firmly rooted he was in the English tradition as well. Indeed, his earlier work is influenced by the 19th century English Romantic tradition of William Blake (who also lived in Sussex, at Felpham, between 1800 and 1803), Samuel Palmer and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. With this in mind, you could forgive John Piper for including one of Nash’s paintings in his 1943 book ‘British Romantic Artists’. Nash was less than pleased, though. It was the word ‘romantic’ which bothered him and he referred, instead, to the ‘poetic’. Certainly, as an artist he returned again and again to the poetry of the English landscape. He sought to look beyond the immediate to what he referred to as the ‘genius loci’, the spirit of the place, to ‘a reality more real’.

Paul Nash, Still Life (No.2), circa 1927, wood engraving, Pallant House Gallery, The Clare Neilson Gift through the Art Fund, copyright TATE London 2013.

Paul Nash was noted for collecting all manner of objects, including seashells, pebbles, seedpods and bits of branches, all of which fuelled his imagination. In 1920, the Society of Wood Engravers was formed and Nash joined. His still life studies are not generally among his most highly regarded pictures. In this woodblock print from 1927, however, the relationship between the glimpsed landscape and still life reflects a paradoxical quality, which recurs in his work. Note also the uncompromising contrast of black and white, of which some, like Jacob Epstein, were critical. But this technique, combined with his unerring and poetic eye, seeds drama in our imaginations and allows us to glimpse something beyond our immediate perception of the world.

Paul Nash exhibited with Epstein at the important ‘Exhibition of the Work of English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others’, where his work was selected by Spencer Gore of the Camden Town Group. The exhibition was held at the Public Art Galleries in Brighton between 16th December 1913 and 14th January 1914. Nash also taught and championed two other artists noted in Sussex, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden, at the Royal College of Art in London. I have long been of the opinion that Sussex stands out as an important centre for Modern British Artists working in the 20th century. Paul Nash’s original and influential work, his connection with Sussex and the insight the Clare Neilson Collection affords us, serve to reinforce my view.

We live out our lives relationally and our possessions can help us to articulate the narrative of our lives. Very often they reflect points of love and friendship in our journeys. In these ways they can help to ground us in this life, but it is important to remember that we are only the custodians. The Clare Neilson Collection and the generosity of its gift speak loudly of this and deserve to be celebrated.

‘Paul Nash – The Clare Neilson Gift Exhibition’ is on show from 9th April to 30th June 2013. For more information and opening times go to www.pallant.org.uk or telephone 01243 774557.

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

The Covers are off at Parham

Parham House
Parham House Opens for the 2013 Season

I am always delighted to return to Parham House, which reopens this Easter Sunday. For me, Parham is one of the most beautiful homes in all England. I admire this special and hopeful place and its current custodian, Lady Emma Barnard, who lives here with her husband James, a successful London Barrister, and their two boys.

Attention has been diverted from the recent fire and all is shipshape for the Easter opening. “I love it when the visitor season and first opening approaches,” Lady Emma declares. “It’s always exciting as the house’s treasures emerge from their winter covers – but there’s always so much to do.” This delight in sharing the joys of Parham is something Lady Emma has in common with her great-grandparents, Clive and Alicia Pearson. They opened Parham to the public from 1948, not out of need but out of a genuine desire to share their home with others, a tradition which was continued by Emma’s great-aunt, Veronica Tritton.

Clive Pearson came from one of the great entrepreneurial families of the turn of the 20th Century. He worked with his father and brother in the family civil engineering firm. Each generation has a collecting and aesthetic bias and for the Pearsons it was an admiration for the older English manor house, in sympathy with the antiquarianism of the 18th Century, rather than the reinterpretation and imitation of styles of the Victorians.

It should be unsurprising that, once discovered, Clive and Alicia Pearson fell in love with Parham. Undeterred by the poor state of the house, they purchased it together with the estate for £200,000, a large sum of money in 1922. During the 1920s and ‘30s they carefully restored this fine Elizabethan house, installing electricity, plumbing and heating.

There can be no question about the care they took to return Parham to its Elizabethan grandeur. The Pearsons furnished it with the wonderful collections of fine portraits, furniture and textiles, often searching out pieces formerly from the house or relating to its history. And yet, with its limed oak panelling and large windows, there is an airy, light feeling to the Great Hall, Long Gallery and many other rooms, which seems almost modern to our contemporary eye. Canadian forces were billeted there during the Second World War as the Battle of Britain was fought overhead. The family stayed on at the house throughout the war and a great rapport built up between them and the troops.

In the grounds to the south of the house, beyond the ha-ha, is St Peter’s Church. The family’s pew still has its own fireplace and, who knows, perhaps they’ll be lighting it this Easter if this chilly spring continues. The Georgian interior reflects the light and openness of the house. There is an atmosphere of stillness and prayer, layered up over centuries. The Easter Sunday Holy Communion starts at 10am and will be led this year by Revd. David Farrant. The church remains open all day. So you might decide to attend the service or perhaps just take time to be, to rest and to reflect as part of your visit to Parham.

Lady Emma Barnard
Lady Emma Barnard in the Great Hall

Lady Emma’s family are only the third family to live at Parham since 1577. A house and garden like Parham carry with them a weight of history and tradition; it demands a particularly keen sense of duty and service from its custodians. Lady Emma applies her own undoubted professional skills to the task. She is keenly supported by her husband and the directors of the charitable trust which has the responsibility to preserve this wonderful place for generations to come. But it is Emma’s love for Parham and her family which breathes real life into the house and gardens. “It’s wonderful for the boys to grow up in this place – we’re so lucky to live here,” she says. I think that it is actually Parham which is lucky. This really is a home, alive and welcoming. Parham is at once timeless and contemporary, intimate and grand and is matched by the generous enthusiasm and passion of Lady Emma.

This optimistic place provides a window onto our past and our future, an historical narrative from the first to the second Elizabethan Age. It speaks to us of our own place in the extraordinary procession of human history. Whether you are visiting for the first time or returning, Parham never fails to captivate and delight anew.

The covers are off! Parham House and Gardens open on Easter Sunday 31st March 2013 at 2pm and 12pm respectively, closing at 5pm. For more information go to www.parhaminsussex.co.uk or telephone 01903 742021.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 27th March 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Dr Geoffrey Sparrow (1887-1969)

Dr Geoffrey Sparrow

A nationally important comic artist and illustrator is given a one man show at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery this September. Dr Sparrow pursued his hobby while serving the residents of the ancient market town of Horsham for half of the 20th Century. His importance on the national scene was recognised back in 2001 when Horsham Museum obtained a grant from the V&A Purchase Grant fund to buy some of his prints, aquatints and original artwork. 11 years later the Museum is holding a major retrospective on an artist who follows in the tradition of Rowlandson, Leech and Alkin, in capturing the foibles and characters of both man and beast.

Dr Sparrow grew up in a Devonshire Home, as his autobiography ‘Foxes and Physic‘ states “in such an atmosphere of red coats, horses, hounds, terriers and old sporting prints on the wall I became thoroughly soaked in the tradition of fox hunting and have always held old Jorrocks’ opinion that all time not spent in hunting is wasted.” He studied medicine at Cambridge and Barts, going into medicine as “something had to be chosen… I was offered the law, medicine or the church: didn’t like an uncle who was a solicitor, so that was out; our parson was rather stout and greasy and preached long and dull sermons, and away with that, so there remained medicine.”

Dr Sparrow arrived in Horsham in 1919 having served as a doctor in the First World War where he was awarded a Military Cross. He co-wrote a book about the campaigns he fought in: ‘On Four Fronts with the Royal Naval Division‘. The volume was peppered with comic masterpieces, many of which were taken from his diaries which now reside at the Imperial War Museum. Once settled in Horsham he observed everyday life and developed a fond affection for the place and people. During the Second World War he saw military service and at the end of the war he retired from medical practise devoting his life to hunting and art. He joined Brighton and Hove Art School where every Friday he would learn etching and aquatinting.

The exhibition of over 35 works of art collected over the last 20 years reveals a quality of illustration, line and observational skills that mark out Dr Sparrow’s drawings from the humdrum. Through his quick sketches he spans some 50 years of life in Horsham town and field with a fascination for the hunting, the absurd and the ironic. The illustrations were always done with a sense of soft humour , making them sketches that could delight the wall of the Horsham gentlefolk rather than the savage satire that appeals to the lovers of Gilray.

'The West Street Nuisance, Horsham', etching by Dr Geoffrey Sparrow

The exhibition ‘A Host of Sparrows’ (for a grouping of Sparrows as ornithologists and the Doctor would know is called a Host) opens on Tuesday 4th September and runs until 13th October 2012 at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, located in the Causeway, which Dr Sparrow referred to as “a curious old cul-de-sac leading to the church”. Toovey’s forthcoming auction of Selected Fine Oil Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings and Prints on 12th September, also includes four works by Dr Geoffrey Sparrow, each highlighting the mastery and wit of this Horsham-based artist.

Major Exhibition at Horsham Museum

'Autumn' by Ivon Hitchens, one of the exhibits at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

Thanks to amazing good fortune Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is able to showcase work by Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein, Paul Nash, Ivon Hitchens, Stanley Spencer and twelve other greats of British art in a temporary exhibition called ‘A Summer of Great British Art.’

Good fortune is the key to an amazing opportunity that has blessed Horsham this summer. The University of Chichester’s Otter Gallery had the good fortune to have a major refurbishment. It also had the good fortune to have a fantastic collection of contemporary British art. While it is being refurbished 17 pictures from its collection are being loaned to Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. This is an incredibly rare opportunity, literally once in a lifetime, as galleries don’t often lend out the crème of their collection, yet thanks to an investment by the University in its facilities, that is exactly what University of Chichester’s Otter Gallery is doing.

The exhibition, which runs for two months from 17th July to 15th September, was only possible through the support of Toovey’s, the Washington-based auction house that assisted with the insurance of this major collection of art. For two months the art will adorn the walls of Horsham Museum’s recently opened art gallery, a venture which has attracted a whole new audience to the Museum. An audience that would go to the Tate to see a David Mitchie, or Elizabeth Blackadder, or Richard Eurich, or a Walter Sickert can now come to Horsham to see these works for the summer of 2012 only.

2012 is a remarkable summer for Britain with sporting and cultural highlights. For the town of Horsham it is also a remarkable summer that  started with Matisse and now with this outstanding exhibition on display, an event only made possible through the work of Horsham District Arts, Toovey’s and The University of Chichester’s Otter Gallery. It is an exhibition that will go down in the annals of the town’s cultural history.

‘A Summer of Great British Art’ opens at Horsham Museum on 17th July and closes 15th September 2012.

Contemporary Art Auction Catalogue Available Now

The Toovey’s Contemporary Art Auction catalogue for the 2012 sale is available now. £6 at our Spring Gardens auction rooms (£8 by post available only from our offices – 01903 891955).

The catalogue will also be available at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery from 1st June to 7th July – throughout their exhibition Off The Wall. Every penny of the £6 catalogue sales at the exhibition will be donated to Horsham Museum and Art Gallery.

In addition to what you will be able to see in the free online catalogue, the printed version carries an additional question-and-answer feature with each of the 50 participating artists.  All 150 lots are illustrated and reproduced in colour. Note: cover image ‘White Heart Dish’ by Claire Palastanga (Lot 110).