A Voyage of Discovery at Horsham Museum

The Maori Poi dancer, Whakarewarewa, published by the New Zealand photographer Thomas Pringle in 1907

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘Voyages to the Pacific’ is inspired by the 250th Anniversary of the departure of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to Tahiti in 1768.

The exhibition draws on the museum’s remarkable collection of ethnographic material. The show highlights the interactions and exchanges that have taken place between the peoples of Europe and the Pacific over the last 250 years, including Horsham’s residents whose objects are displayed telling the story.

A collection of Pacific ethnographical objects framed against Horsham’s Causeway

Assistant Curator Rhiannon Jones says “The exhibition shows how the people of Horsham have encountered the people of the South Pacific. These objects were brought back by diplomats, sailors and wealthy people.”

“In the summer of 1768 Captain James Cook set sail from Plymouth for Tahiti hoping to track the transit of Venus. Cook’s techniques in surveying, astronomy and timekeeping were revolutionary, as was his care for his crew and the measures he took to prevent scurvy.”

There was a second charge to Cook to discover the as yet only imagined great southern continent. Cook would sail tantalisingly close, within 75 miles of Antarctica.

Rhiannon explains how this first expedition and Cook’s two subsequent voyages changed European perceptions of world geography leading to trade and colonisation.

The exhibition provides an introduction to the sociocultural anthropology of the peoples of the Pacific through objects and photographs.

My eye is caught by a photograph of the Maori Poi Dancer, Whakarewarewa. It is taken from the book ‘Maori Studies’ published by the New Zealand photographer Thomas Pringle in 1907. The Poi is a traditional Maori dance where weights are swung in rhythmic patterns on the end of tethers.

A rare 19th century Tongan or Samoan Tapa barkcloth panel

On the opposite side of the gallery a series of 19th century Tapa barkcloth panels with striking geometric abstract designs are displayed. These cloths are produced from the inner bark of young shrubs and trees by the process of soaking and beating. They are commonly found across the Pacific and Africa. Barkcloth is still used for clothing, bedding, flooring and ceremonial objects. It is short lived and old examples like this Tongan or Samoan panel are rare.

Rhiannon enthuses about a case filled with ethnographical pieces which include an 18th century pot stand from Papua New Guinea modelled as a head, wooden combs and necklaces, and a small jade totem intended to enhance fertility. I remark that this fascinating array is displayed against the backdrop of Horsham’s famous Causeway which seems to emphasise the town’s connection with the exhibition’s story and objects and she agrees.

Entrance to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE, is free with permanent displays and exciting shows. Voyages to the Pacific runs until 26th January 2019. There are plenty of family Christmas activities too. For more information visit 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.

RA250 Celebrated at Horsham

The Royal Academy’s Professor of Perspective, Humphrey Ocean., RA, in conversation with Nicholas Toovey and Jeremy Knight

Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘Watercolour RA250’ explores the relationship of leading Royal Academicians with the medium of watercolour.

The exhibition was opened by Humphrey Ocean., RA, who acknowledged his connection with Sussex having been born at Hardham. He described how he follows in the footsteps of J.M.W Turner as the Royal Academy’s Professor of Perspective and the importance of Turner’s watercolours in the artist’s oeuvre.

The Royal Academy (RA) was founded in 1768 with the approval of George III. Its constitution allowed for painters in oil, sculptors, printmakers and architects to be elected to membership of the RA but not watercolourists. Exhibition Curator Jeremy Knight explained how despite this many leading Royal Academicians over the centuries have been talented watercolourists. ‘Watercolour RA250’ gives a rich insight into these artist’s relationship with the medium of watercolour. Paintings by JMW Turner, Paul Sandby, Humphrey Ocean and many other rarely seen pictures are on show. Works have been borrowed from museums and art galleries across Sussex.

Humphrey Ocean., RA, Portrait of Horsham born artist Mark Alexander © the artist

Humphrey Ocean’s work has exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery. He has been making a series of portraits of visitors to his studio since 2006. He works swiftly employing gouache on large sheets of paper. His sitters are depicted in simple bold forms and colours. These portraits are compelling illustrating the artist’s love of painting, colour and people. Ocean illuminates something unique about each person, their posture and dress, providing an intimate snapshot in time. These qualities are apparent in his striking portrait of the Horsham born artist Mark Alexander.

Two important talks will take place at the Capitol, Horsham to accompany the exhibition. On 11th October at 7pm art historian Tom Wilcox will discuss ‘Watercolour in Britain in the 20th century – mainstream or margin?’, and Greg Smith will look at the work of Thomas Girtin on 18th October at 6.30pm. Tickets are available from the Capitol by visiting www.thecapitolhorsham.com.

It is exciting to see how Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s growing collection of watercolours is continuing to raise its profile enabling it to borrow additional major works from museums and art galleries.

None of this would be possible without Jeremy Knight and the Horsham District Council’s understanding of the importance of art and heritage to the identity and economy of Horsham and the broader district. Jonathan Chowen, Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Arts, Heritage & Leisure, and his team are deserving of our thanks for their continued long term support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

The exhibition is supported by the Royal Academy’s RA250, The Art Fund and Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers. ‘Watercolour RA250’ runs until 17 November 2018, at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE and admission is free. For more information go visit 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.

Jeremy Knight and the Horsham Museum

The iconic Horsham Museum & Art Gallery in the Causeway, Horsham

As The Horsham Museum celebrates its 125th Anniversary Jeremy Knight is marking 30 years as its curator on the 15th August 2018.

This August the Horsham Museum is celebrating its 125th Birthday. It was founded in 1893 by members of the Free Christian Church and the Horsham Museum Society was born. In 1974 Horsham District Council took over responsibility for running the museum.

Jeremy has been the curator at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery for thirty years. As I meet him I comment on the remarkable coincidence of the timing of these two important anniversaries, he agrees and says “We’re continuing those noble Victorian aspirations of learning, public service and working for the civic good.”

I ask Jeremy what most delights him about his role at the museum, he replies “Listening to people talking about the museum as their museum, it’s then that you know you’ve got it right.”

Curator Jeremy Knight celebrating 30 years at the Horsham Museum

Jeremy Knight is a modern antiquarian; passionate about the use of objects in telling stories from our past. He stands against the current concerning trend of removing objects and labels from our nation’s museum displays. He comments “It’s about story-telling, it always has been, using objects to bring history to life by exploring historical connections and peoples’ relationships.”

Jeremy is a gifted historian. His excellent volumes on the history of Horsham are published by the museum and the profits go to help support its work.

Reflecting on his thirty years at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery he smiles and says “It has been exciting to professionalise and develop the curatorship of the collections whilst re-inventing the museum.” Jeremy explains how he has edited and managed the collections. His policies in this area have been celebrated by museums and fellow curators. Jeremy comments “If you have collections they enable you to work with and borrow from others.” Jeremy has built relationships with national institutions and collaborated with the Worshipful Company of Loriners, the V&A and the Royal Academy.

Jeremy developed an interest in objects and history at an early age. He explains how his mother encouraged him to collect geological specimens when he was 11 years old. From geology he moved onto the natural world with a Christmas gift of an antique taxidermy red squirrel. And then to books, not just as documents of learning but as aesthetic objects.

In the museum he balances the public’s appetite for art with an ability to display our local social and economic history in creative and unique ways. Under Jeremy Knight’s leadership the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has become one of the most visited art and heritage attractions in West Sussex.

He is quick to praise his staff and community of volunteers “I work with a small, dedicated and talented staff at the museum. We are supported by over sixty volunteers ranging in age from nineteen to nearly ninety – they work on everything from gardening, to making fittings for exhibitions, cataloguing, researching collections, digital recording and local history, as well as guiding.”

The Horsham District Council’s continued commitment to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is deserving of praise.

Jeremy Knight continues to have an enormous influence on the promotion of culture and heritage across the whole Horsham District. His work illustrates the importance of generous, long-term leadership and service, in preserving the history and art of our county and he is richly deserving of our thanks.

Entrance to the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is free with permanent displays and exciting shows like the current Frankenstein exhibition. For more information visit 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.

The Working Life of Horsham Folk

William Hogarth’s engraving ‘The Tailor Apprentice’ from ‘Industry and Idleness’, circa 1747
William Hogarth’s engraving ‘The Tailor Apprentice’ from ‘Industry and Idleness’, circa 1747

With the current debate and concerns about the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on jobs Horsham Museum’s latest exhibition on work could not be more relevant.

The exhibition, ‘All work and no play – the working life of Horsham folk’, charts the evolution of business and work in the Horsham District over the last two hundred years against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries to the present day.

This exhibition provides a hopeful message from the past and illustrates how work has changed and evolved over the centuries.

Both science and theology acknowledge that we live in a perfecting Universe and we affect and can have a positive part to play in that perfecting through our stewardship and work. Work is fundamentally important to our wellbeing on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. It informs our human experience of the world and our identities.

Horsham Saddler, William Albery © Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
Horsham Saddler, William Albery © Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

Amongst my favourite images in the exhibition is a photograph of William Albery working on a saddle in his workshop. Hand crafted objects are still highly valued today. He apprenticed to his father’s Saddlers firm in 1878 and was running the business by the time he was twenty-one. William Albery was a man with a keen social conscience and a member of the Labour Party. In 1929 he successfully campaigned to become a Horsham District Councillor. He was known for his care for those down on their luck including the shoe maker and folk singer, Henry Burstow.

William Albery was also a keen historian and the horse related Lorinery items which he collected are on permanent display at the museum.

The staff at Coolhurst
The staff at Coolhurst

The lives and work of the English country house have been characterised in Downton Abbey. The photograph of the staff at Coolhurst depicts the working community of an English country house at its height.

The plate ‘The Tailor Apprentice’ from William Hogarth’s 1747 series of engravings ‘Industry and Idleness’ speaks of the virtues of industriousness over idleness. Two apprentices strike out from the same place upon very different paths. Francis Goodchild through hardwork and discipline becomes the Lord Mayor of London whilst Thomas Idle’s more chaotic approach to life tragically leads him to Tyburn and execution.

The stories told by these images from different centuries speak into our own time. Work and the jobs that we do have always changed and there is no doubt that they will continue to do so. The different models of work described in this exhibition establish that we flourish in work where the relationship between employer and staff is informed by mutual respect, care, fairness, industry and duty – then our lives are not ‘all work and no play’.

This insightful exhibition ‘All work and no play – the working life of Horsham folk’ runs at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE until 13th April 2018. For more information go visit 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.

Horsham’s Art Gallery Attracts National Attention

Christian Mitchell, Nicholas Toovey, Rosa Sepple., PRI, Robin Hazelwood., PPRI, and Jeremy Knight at the opening of the RI: Now 17 watercolour exhibition

The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, Now 17 summer exhibition is currently on show at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours (RI) rarely holds exhibitions outside London and this show highlights the growing reputation of Horsham’s exceptional regional art gallery.

The exhibition was opened by the President of the Royal Institute, Rosa Sepple, and the Chairman of Horsham District Council, Christian Mitchell, in front of a large audience.

The RI can trace its origins back to 1807 when it was first formed as the New Society of Painters in Watercolours. Early exhibitors included the luminaries William Blake and Paul Sandby. The Society closed in 1812 but was resurrected by the artist Joseph Powell in 1831. The Society acquired its Royal status by order of Queen Victoria in 1883. For much of its existence its home was opposite the Royal Academy in Piccadilly but in 1971, together with a number of other leading societies of artists, it moved to the Mall Galleries as part of the Federation of British artists. Her Majesty the Queen is the RI’s patron.

Since Horsham’s art gallery was opened in 2010, to compliment the museum’s already outstanding program, visitor numbers have doubled making the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery one of the most visited arts and heritage destinations in the whole of Sussex.

Responding to this demand the museum changed its collecting policy. It now collect’s not only Sussex related art, but also watercolours by leading exponents of the medium. A watercolour collection of national significance is being built with financial support from The Friends of Horsham Museum, collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions. I am delighted that Toovey’s have already donated a number of watercolours by key British artists and are sponsoring the exceptional RI: Now 17 show. This exceptional selling exhibition includes watercolours by some twenty leading RI artists including works by the current President.

Charles Bone’s watercolour, Sussex Downs

The beauty of the Sussex Downs never fails to excite me. The watercolour, ‘Sussex Downs’, by RI past President Charles Bone, captures the shifting grey-green hues of the late spring and early summer. His broad but delicate brushwork gives us a sense of the fast changing play of light and weather on this ancient landscape. Charles Bone is understandably celebrated for his ability to record landscapes and architecture.

Lillias August’s Hanging by a Thread watercolour being painted in her studio

Lillias August’s watercolour ‘Hanging by a Thread’, in contrast, conveys a stillness which appears out of time. The three-dimensional quality of the light bulbs depicted is emphasised by the economy of her palette and the building up of painstaking layers of wash. ‘Hanging by a Thread’ seen here in her studio allows us to glimpse something of the artist’s working method.

These are just two of the delights in the RI: Now 17 exhibition which gives the backdrop for a number of summer events celebrating watercolour paintings and artists at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

Highlights include a talk by Art Historian, Nicola Moorby, on Turner’s watercolour technique on the 8th June 2017, and Nick Toovey of Toovey’s Auctioneers will once again be holding a fundraising valuation event for paintings, prints, books, postcards and other paper collectables on Saturday 10th June 2017, 10am to 1pm at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery.

This current show, RI: Now 17, is proof of Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s growing national reputation. Curator, Jeremy Knight, is once again deserving of our thanks.

The RI: Now 17 exhibition runs until 15th July 2017 at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE and entrance is free. For more information visit 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.