Horsham District in 100 Objects

Geoffrey Sparrow’s sketch of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt in the Carfax

Jeremy Knight has distilled his extraordinary and unique knowledge of the heritage of the Horsham District into a newly published book which explores our common heritage through 100 objects.

The book was made possible by a grant awarded by the 2019 Horsham District Year of Culture and will provide a lasting legacy.

Learning, agriculture, industry, retail trade, domestic life and the military are just some of the topics covered by this remarkable book in a series of historical vignettes told through the objects

One of the stories relates to a Union Jack flag from Henfield which connects us with the poignant and powerful story of the Unknown Soldier laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.

A Great War Union Jack with a remarkable story from Henfield

Jeremy explains “The flag was used to cover one of four exhumed candidates for the Unknown Soldier who fell on the Western Front during the Great War. Their bodies were exhumed from the Somme, Arras, the Aisne and Ypres. Only one of these bodies was chosen to be buried at Westminster Abbey.”

I ask how the flag came to be in Henfield and Jeremy replies “Captain Brooks of the War Graves Registration Unit lived in Henfield. This flag was one of the smaller ones used to cover the bodies as they were stretchered from the battle grounds to bring them home. Brooks kept this smaller flag. It was hidden in Belgium during the Second World War. He donated it to the Royal British Legion in 1953 who in 1976 loaned it to St Peter’s Church in Henfield. It is still used there in the Services on Remembrance Sunday.”

I never cease to be humbled by the power of objects to unite us with our common heritage and give us a sense of place in the procession of human history.

I enjoy the work of Dr Geoffrey Sparrow and my eye is taken by a sketch of the Crawley and Horsham Boxing Day hunt gathered in Horsham’s Carfax. His pictures give expression to a love of horses and hunting and provide a fond but humorous insight into country life in and around Horsham between the wars.
As a small boy I watched the Crawley and Horsham Hunt riding out from the Carfax on Boxing Day with my Grandpa. The warm smell of the horses, the red hunting coats, the sounds of hooves on the tarmac, huntsmen’s horns and the hounds remain alive in my memory. Today the scene is very much one of history.
You can still see Horsham Museum’s exhibition displaying many of the objects illustrated in the book until 12th October.

‘The Horsham District in 100 Objects’ by Jeremy Knight is superb and beautifully illustrated. It distils thirty years of knowledge and understanding into a concise and accessible format. The book provides a superb companion and guide to a journey of discovery around the district and its rich heritage. It has just gone on sale at the museum and really deserves to be on your autumn reading list!

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.

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Raises Cultural Bar

Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937), Marble Quarry, Iona, early 20th century oil

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘A Collector’s Passion – Scottish Oils and Watercolours’ is the most significant in the 2019 Horsham District Council’s Year of Culture.

The exhibition explores a local collector’s passion for Scottish pictures. There is a tremendous quality of patronage in them being loaned for the public to see.
Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Curator Jeremy Knight says “This very private collector was awarded the art prize by his artist teacher Archie Watt whilst growing up in south-west Scotland and this inspired his passion for art and collecting. It’s the fantastic colours in Scottish art which delights him.” Three of Archie Watt’s paintings are on show.

The qualities of patronage are also apparent in the collection with leading contemporary Scottish artists.

Alongside an exquisite Venetian inspired oil by Anne Redpath my eye is drawn to an important group of paintings by the four Scottish Colourists FCB Cadell, GL Hunter, SJ Peploe and JD Fergusson. They painted landscapes, still lifes and interiors, influenced by their direct contact with French Post-Impressionism and their early knowledge of the work of Matisse and the Fauvres. Their paintings were amongst the most progressive in early 20th century British art and they developed an international following.

FCB Cadell first visited the Hebridean island of Iona in 1912 and would return most summers, usually to paint outside. The cool tonalities of the work Cadell produced on Iona in the 1920s contrasts with the sharp dissonance of colour employed in his studio paintings of the same date. The Iona landscape you see here is filled with light and movement, the nature of the coastline accentuated in the stylized blocks of colour which define the composition. The effect is moving and beautiful.

GL Hunter used a brush loaded with paint, combining broad strokes with a skilful manipulation of strong warm and cool colours in the Still Life with Flowers and Fruit.

Some twenty Scottish paintings, including contemporary works, are included in the exhibition.

George Leslie Hunter (1877-1931), Still life with Flowers and Fruit, early 20th century oil

‘A Collector’s Passion – Scottish Oils and Watercolours’ once again raises the cultural bar of the visual arts in the Horsham District. I hope that the growing reputation of the Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery will continue to attract loans and work of this quality to its exhibitions and permanent collection. A cultural offering at this level lends so much to the reputation, prosperity and quality of life of the Horsham District. Horsham District Council has an important ongoing role in this and I hope our councillors will continue to build on their success. They, Jeremy Knight and this passionate collector are deserving of our thanks.

It is exciting to see such a body of work exhibited in Horsham. The exhibition runs until 26th October 2019 and entrance is free of charge. 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.

Landscapes, Ancient and Modern

Gordon Rushmer’s watercolour of Coombes Church
Gordon Rushmer’s watercolour of Coombes Church

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition, Accents on The Landscape – Ancient Churches of West Sussex, comprises a canon of watercolours by the celebrated British watercolourist Gordon Rushmer.

I catch up with Gordon as I open the exhibition and ask him about the inspiration behind his latest body of work. He replies “I am nostalgic for the past – my childhood in the South Country of fifty or sixty years ago.” Gordon’s comments resonate with Hilaire Belloc’s famous poem The South Country and the writer’s yearning for Sussex, her people and landscape.

Gordon’s paintings provide a valuable contemporary record of these churches continuing in the British watercolour tradition, but there is something more to these rich watercolours. He depicts these ancient, sacred places in perfect harmony with the Sussex landscape. Like this gifted artist the churches appear rooted in the landscape. Gordon says “When I paint it’s a spontaneous response to what I perceive – the meanings often reveal themselves later. My paintings often start with an idea which can take a year to come together.”

I begin to understand that the stillness evident in many of his paintings comes out of a process of reflection. Once Gordon has discerned what it is he wants to convey he works from his photographs and sketches made in the field. The pictures record the memory of a particular moment which transcends time and the purely visual.

Gordon Rushmer’s detail of an 11th century fresco at Coombes
Gordon Rushmer’s detail of an 11th century fresco at Coombes

Gordon’s journey around the ancient churches of Sussex has been one of returning, of bridging the ancient to the modern. It has been a journey of the interior emotionally and spiritually, as well as in the physical world.

These qualities can be seen in Gordon’s study of Coombes Church which you approach through a farm yard nestling in the lee of the Downs. It is often surrounded by grazing sheep. Inside there are a number of fragmentary 11th century frescoes which Gordon has illustrated.

Gordon Rushmer is an acclaimed war artist. He reflects “I have witnessed both the best and the worst in life. My time in Afghanistan and abroad [with British forces] has informed my perspectives. The stillness of these churches is amplified for me – that contrast between the war and the peace.”

I comment on how his work always seems hope filled and Gordon smiles and agrees.

Artist Gordon Rushmer
Artist Gordon Rushmer

This exhibition has only been possible thanks to the patronage and vision of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s Curator Jeremy Knight. The limited edition book by Gordon Rushmer which accompanies the exhibition is beautifully illustrated and will provide an important legacy to the Horsham District Council’s 2019 Year of Culture.

I am delighted that Toovey’s are supporting ‘Accents on The Landscape – Ancient Churches of West Sussex’. It runs at the Horsham District Council Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, until 1st June 2019. Entrance to the Museum and exhibition is free. It provides a rare opportunity not only to see, but also to acquire the work of an artist who is represented in the collections of Tate and The Imperial War Museum. For more information go to www.horshammuseum.org or telephone 01403 254959.

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.

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.

Inspired by the Landscape

Rupert Toovey at Petworth Park
Rupert Toovey at Petworth Park

Inspired by the Horsham Museum & Art Galleries latest exhibition of local landscapes I have been trying to walk off my Christmas indulgence, with my terrier Bonnie in the beauty of the Sussex countryside. And what strikes me is how influential and important human stewardship and industry has been to the appearance and beauty of our landscape.

A great favourite of ours is the circular walk at the top of Chantry Hill at the back of Storrington. From the car park you follow the footpath to the west. The views carry your eye across the undulating hills of the Angmering Park Estate to the sea at Worthing and the Isle of Wight. Leaving the main path and heading North the ground steadily rises until the view opens onto the Sussex Weald. A few hundred yards to the east between Kithurst Hill and Chantry Hill you come upon a late Bronze Age / Iron Age cross dyke. The deep ditch and steep embankment still defines its boundary and affords the most wonderful views with Storrington below. As you walk in this man made earthworks you have a real sense of the ancient and your place in the procession of history. It is farming which has created and preserved the Downland landscape which surrounds it.

At Petworth Park the qualities of the picturesque are alive in Capability Brown’s man made landscape, preserved and maintained by The National Trust.

Bonnie delighted to be on the Bronze Age cross dyke on Chantry Hill

Bonnie and I love to walk through the park and around the lake. The house and park are united in the landscape. Here you come upon a series of constructed, vignette views onto sweeping areas of grass, curving lakes and beautifully conceived woodland clumps of trees. It is as though you are walking in a series paintings.

This aesthetic was born out of the rococo in reaction to the formal straight lines and topiary of the French royal gardens designed by André Le Notre (1613-1700), which had been made popular in England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries by George London (d.1714) and Henry Wise (1653-1738). Together they had created the parterres not only at Petworth but also at Hampton Court Palace, Chatsworth and Longleat.

In early 18th century England there was a political desire, held by both the Whig government and Hanoverian King George I, to distance themselves from the excesses of the French Court at Versailles. This combined with a fascination for ‘unbounded nature’. In this climate Capability Brown’s park landscapes evolved in dialogue with his patrons. Perhaps this is why his idealised landscapes speak into the hearts and imaginations of the English and, in part, define us.

Sussex and her landscape continues to inspire successive generations of artists, writers and composers as she has over the centuries. I look forward to exploring the Sussex landscape and the continuing contribution of its contemporary stewards to the identity and heritage of the 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.