Exciting New Displays as Horsham Museum & Art Gallery Re-Opens

Jeremy Knight, retiring long-term Curator of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

As the newly refurbished Horsham Museum & Art Gallery reopens Jeremy Knight, its Curator for some thirty-three years, is preparing to retire.

I ask Jeremy about his time at the museum, he replies “I arrived in 1988 and remember thinking what a fabulous building and collections and that feeling has deepened over time. Horsham and the District has such a rich history and cultural story which needs to be celebrated. The museum is the only organisation that brings those threads together and makes it accessible to the people who live here and visitors to the district.”

Building up the collection for future generations has required all of Jeremy’s deep knowledge and understanding of the history of Horsham and her district. Without him being here so much would have been lost.

Thanks to Jeremy Knight’s curatorship the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s reputation has grown beyond all measure. His vision and work has attracted the attention of curators and institutions ranging from Tate Britain, the V&A, the Royal Collections, the National Trust and the RA to name but a few. This reputation has brought extraordinary bequests, gifts and partnerships which most recently have included works by John Constable and the artist Vincent Lines.

Jeremy has always practiced servant leadership; what he does is always about the flourishing of others and not about self.

The new galleries tell the stories of Horsham, her industries, people and communities across centuries through wonderful objects. The new cabinets and displays bring the collections alive and it is as though you are discovering the objects for the very first time.

One of the newly refurbished displays with the Gruffalo

I notice a number of the displays are lower down. “They’re for the children.” Jeremy explains “It’s really important that all this is accessible to them and their families.” I agree, I have been coming to the Horsham Museum since I was a child.

Jeremy Knight has the qualities of a patron supporting artists, local historians and bibliophiles. Through his work at the museum he has created strong links with local people and enriched the heritage community.

He explains that he is looking forward to writing, and a PhD on The Book in the Museum. There is a fine new display of the important history of literature in the Horsham District.

I ask Jeremy about the reasons behind his leaving. He answers “The museum is a constant in people’s lives as the narratives and displays change reflecting the community. The refresh is a perfect moment, [the new layout] makes it possible to change the displays so that the museum can remain relevant to each generation in its turn. And it will allow those who take it forward to reflect their own and the public’s evolving interests.

All I have achieved and this exciting refurbishment has only been possible because of Horsham District Council’s support of the museum and me, and the help of the staff and volunteers.”

The refurbishment of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery is a terrific footnote to Jeremy Knight’s long-term stewardship. You must see it.

This gifted and generous antiquarian has blessed us with his professionalism, knowledge and passion for the people and history of Horsham and her district. Jeremy Knight is deserving of our thanks.

Toy Valuation Fundraiser for Horsham Museum

Toovey’s toy specialist Chris Gale with an array of collectors toys including a boxed Triang Wrenn locomotive, a Bassett-Lowke lifeboat and other tinplate and die-cast toys

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s toy specialist, Chris Gale who is preparing for his annual toy valuation fundraising event on the morning of Saturday 14th March at the Horsham Museum.

Chris remarks “People are often unaware of how valuable their old toys are and this free auction valuation event gives people the chance to find out and benefit the Horsham Museum as well.”

“Since 2002 I’ve sold more than £1.5 million pounds of toys and models for collectors from across Sussex and the UK in Toovey’s specialist auctions.”

A Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus with external staircase and driver canopy, lithographed with destination boards and advertisements

I ask Chris to describe a few of his favourite toys. He pauses and says “One of my favourite toys was the Bing tinplate clockwork open top double deck bus which sold for £2800. It was beautifully made. Remarkable quality, especially as by the 1920s Bing was one of Germany’s most prolific toy manufacturers. The designs were lithographed onto steel sheets. The designs were then stamped out of the metal and assembled using tabs and slots. The Great Depression brought the company into decline and with the rise of the Nazis the Jewish Bing family came to England.”

An 18th century turned, carved and painted wooden swivel-head doll

“The 18th century turned, carved and painted wooden swivel-head doll I discovered was also exceptional. She had brown hair, black glass eyes, red painted lips and cheeks and the lined eyebrows were emphasised with dots. Her jointed body was wooden except for the upper arms which were stuffed with cotton. The doll came with a letter from the family stating it was bought new in Bath by an Ann Gibbs with her uncle Admiral Gayton in 1790, wonderful provenance, it realised £6400.”

A number of valuable toys have been discovered at previous Horsham Museum valuation events. Chris Gale who is donating his time explains: “If items valued at the event are subsequently consigned for auction with us at Toovey’s we will give a third of our seller’s commission to the 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 14th March, 10am to 12 noon. Toovey’s next specialist toy sale will be held on 20th May 2020.

Sussex Artist Alison Milner-Gulland – A Life in Art

The artist Alison Milner-Gulland in her studio

A retrospective exhibition ‘Alison Milner-Gulland – A Life in Art’ opens at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery on Saturday 7th March 2020. This gifted Sussex artist has been reflecting on her creative life as her 80th birthday approaches.
Alison Milner-Gulland, like the seasons of the year, returns to a cycle of subjects that have always inspired her: the ancient, Sussex and the Downs, iconography, Russia and the Middle East, Oxford, antiquity and the human form, and music. As this retrospective exhibition illustrates one informs the other.

Alison Milner-Gulland’s oil painting, ‘Buddington Bottom’

These subjects directly record the artist’s life and her experience of the world. Alison will often re-visit a piece and re-work it many times reflecting the layers she perceives as she interprets the world around her. Alison’s work is not linear, she zig zags about so the date of a piece is not always relevant or remembered, her pictures develop and evolve as she continues to work on them giving expression to her connectedness with the world she inhabits.

For more than a decade my brother, Nick, and I have visited Alison at her studio which nestles at the foot of the South Downs. Nick describes it as “An amazing space – well-organized chaos, framed works are hung wherever wall-space permits or stacked on the floor. After being greeted by the family’s Jack Russell terrier, Dotty, and navigating a maze of pictures, mounting materials and packaging you come to the main work area of the cottage studio. Here an architect’s chest conceals numerous unframed prints, stacked on top of these are further prints, oils on canvas and works in progress beneath works drying on a washing line. Occasionally the sound of her nearby chickens, geese, guinea fowl or sheep are heard from outside. Negotiating the livestock and braving the elements you come to a separate studio dedicated to Alison’s work in ceramics. A colder but brighter and neater space, inherently slightly dusty from the powders, glazes and clays used to create the work. Along two walls are shelves displaying recent vessels, mostly figurative or musically inspired, but with a few trial abstracted landscape designs scattered amongst them.”

Alison Milner-Gulland’s ceramic pot, ‘Galloping Horses’

Alison has been drawing since she was old enough to hold a pencil.
From her teens until only a few years ago Alison regularly rode in the South Downs committing to memory the play of light and the elements on the landscape bound up with the movement of her horse. The elevated perspective that riding affords is evident in many of her landscapes. Alison has often remarked how in her imagination the rhythm of the horse combines with the movement in the landscape, a theme which recurs in her work.

The exhibition is brought alive through Alison’s comments – reminiscences which inform and accompany the works on display.

At first glance Alison’s work is accessible and uncomplicated, but over time the work reveals layers, subtle details and evolving depths, a spirituality, all of which serve the talent of this gifted artist.

Each of the works reflect the layered rhythm of this artist’s life. Her practice is reflective and always layered. This visual-poet in the landscape allows us to glimpse our place in the procession of human history, and something beyond our immediate perception of the world.

It is these qualities which gift Alison Milner-Gulland’s work with such a particular and distinctive artistic voice.

Alison Milner- Gulland – a Life in Art opens on the 7th March and runs until 27th June 2020 at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. This is an exceptional exhibition and entry is free. To find out more visit www.horshammuseum.org.

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.