Remembrance through making

Sussex artist Mary Crabb

‘Significant Figures: remembrance through making’ is an intimate and poignant exhibition which seeks to articulate remembrance through the making of art is currently on show at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester.

It tells the story of Cecil, caught in a photograph in his Royal Warwickshire Regiment uniform, following his relationship with Elsie and his role in the Great War through a series of conceptual objects.

Sussex artisan artist, Mary Crabb, is a member of the Basketmakers’ Association, a Yeoman Member of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers, a mathematician and an educator. Mary brings together these creative threads in her work.

‘I Will Remember Him’ © the artist
‘I Will Remember Him’ © the artist

I ask Mary about the inspiration behind the exceptional narrative of the exhibition. She replies “The story isn’t mine, it belonged to my Grandmother, Elsie, who was born in 1898. She handed it down to me and it has become part of my own journey. It began with a photograph shared with loved ones as an act of remembrance or perhaps as a means not to forget. Elsie met Cecil after her family moved to Birmingham in 1907, her father had won a building contract to work on the Birmingham University. Cecil left school in December 1915 to go to war. In July 1916 Elsie received word from Cecil’s parents that he had been killed in action in France and they gave her the photograph to remember him by.”

I remark that shared stories – memories – of both joys and sorrows unite us as families and communities and Mary agrees.

The exhibition features small intricate work whose simple concepts belie the complexity in the making. There are also examples of more traditional basketwork of the period including a pair of facsimile artillery shell baskets also made by Mary.

Many of the conceptual pieces are mounted on khaki fabric boards. My eye is taken by an installation titled ‘I Will Remember Him’.

Mary explains “‘I Will Remember Him’ is an attempt to quantify the time Elsie maintained her act of remembrance for Cecil.

My Grandmother met my Grandad in Lincoln and they were married in 1934. Their marriage was filled with love, laughter and affection. They were married for more than fifty years. Like many in their generation they shared an understanding of the need to remember those who fought and died, especially those they had loved and lost. Elsie kept the photograph of Cecil from 1916 until her own death in 1992.”

Mary’s mathematical skills become apparent as she continues “Each motif in this piece has a red tag with a year stamped on it and fifty-two twisted strips of blank paper for Bibles each with a handwritten text copying what Elsie wrote on the back of the photograph about Cecil. These strips are held with twining in a circle of seven turns at the centre. Each day between 1916 and 1992 is represented so that each motif mathematically represents a year 7×52+1=365.”

Another work by Mary Crabb

As I stand amongst Mary’s remarkable work it strikes me that Elsie’s act of remembrance for Cecil has a resonance for each of us in our own lives – our joys and our sorrows. But it also powerfully connects and unites us with a particular moment in history and the procession of love and remembrance which flows from it. Mary reflects “Is this Elsie’s story or mine? Through the making of this work it has become both hers and mine, a collaboration.”

‘Significant Figures: remembrance through making’ is at the Oxmarket Gallery, Chichester. PO19 1YH until this coming Sunday, 7th October 2018 and entry is free. For more information visit www.marycrabb.co.uk or www.oxmarket.com.

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.

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion

John Piper, View of Chichester Cathedral from the Deanery, 1975, ink, watercolour and crayon on paper, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © The Piper Estate / DAC
John Piper, View of Chichester Cathedral from the Deanery, 1975, ink, watercolour and crayon on paper, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © The Piper Estate / DAC

Readers of this column will know that for many years now I have been promoting and telling the story of Sussex as a centre for art and artist, especially in the the 20th century. So I am excited by the exhibition ‘Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion’ being shown at Two Temple Place, London WC2R 3BD. This exhibition gives voice to how Sussex found herself at the heart of the Modern British Art Movement and the relationships and events which brought artists to Sussex.

This ambitious show is the work and inspiration of Dr Hope Wolf, of Sussex University who has brought together works from the collections of many of our county’s most famous museums and art galleries including Pallant House Gallery, The Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, Towner, Jerwood and the homes of artists and patrons like Charleston, Farleys Farm and West Dean.

For more than a thousand years Sussex has drawn artists to her rolling Downland landscape and exciting coastline. Artists such as J M W Turner and John Constable, William Blake and Samuel Palmer were all inspired by, and worked in, Sussex. The 20th Century saw a revival of this ancient tradition with many of the leading Modern British artists living and working in the county.

Familiarity and the passage of years has dulled our sense of how shocking much of this art was to its contemporary audiences in the early 20th century. The contrasting context of the Neo-Gothic architecture and panelled rooms of Two Temple Place helps us to rediscover the impact of this important moment in British Art.

The first room gathers you with the work of the Sussex born artist, Eric Gill. In 1907 Gill moved to Ditchling in Sussex. Together with a group of fellow artists he founded and worked within the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling. These artists lived in community with their wives, children, associates and apprentices. They upheld the principles of the artisan artist in the Arts and Crafts tradition.

Duncan Grant, Bathers by the Pond, c1920-21, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © 1978 Estate of Duncan Grant, courtesy Henrietta Garnett
Duncan Grant, Bathers by the Pond, c1920-21, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © 1978 Estate of Duncan Grant, courtesy Henrietta Garnett

Duncan Grant’s Post-Impressionist ‘Bathers by the Pond’ celebrates the male body and pacifism. It is one of the works illustrating the influence of Bloomsbury and Charleston House in the show.

Many people are surprised to learn that Salvadore Dali worked in Sussex for Edward James at West Dean and that Picasso stayed with his great friend Roland Penrose at Farleys Farm. A joyful Mae West lips sofa, designed by Dali, is on display, one of a number of works illustrating Surrealism in Sussex.

Graham Sutherland, Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene (Noli Me Tangere), 1961, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © The Estate of the Artist
Graham Sutherland, Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene (Noli Me Tangere), 1961, oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © The Estate of the Artist

The influence of church patrons like The Revd. Walter Hussey, then Dean of Chichester Cathedral, is also explored. Pieces from his personal collection, now curated by Pallant House, unite the exhibition with the art of Chichester Cathedral and provides one of the best examples of Graham Sutherland’s work, ‘Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene, Noli Me Tangere’, and a charming view of the Cathedral by John Piper whose Neo-Romantic architectural studies unite him with the British watercolour tradition.

The narrative of this exhibition is particularly strong placing the artists and their work in the contexts of their relationships, the times they lived in and Sussex. Dr Hope Wolf acknowledges that there is more to be said but this excellent and timely exhibition should be celebrated. She is deserving of our thanks, as are the Bulldog Trust whose patronage has made this show possible.

‘Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion’ runs until 23rd April 2017 at Two Temple Place, London, WC2R 3BD and admission is free. For more information go to www.twotempleplace.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.

Exciting New Collection at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

John Claude Nattes (c.1765-1839), Horsham on a windy day, 1792, Purchased with the aid of the aid of the V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of Horsham Museum
John Claude Nattes (c.1765-1839), Horsham on a windy day, 1792, Purchased with the aid of the aid of the V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of Horsham Museum

In 2010 the Horsham Museum became the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery. Visitor numbers have soared, more than doubling in the last six years, making it one of the most visited art and heritage attractions in the South East of England. It is clear that there is an enormous appetite for art in the Horsham District.

Responding to this demand the museum has recently changed its collecting policy. It is seeking to collect not only Sussex related art, but also watercolours by the greatest exponents of the medium. It represents a remarkable opportunity to form a collection of national and international significance, especially as prices for fine watercolours continue to represent exceptional value for money.

The project will require the continued patronage of The Friends of Horsham Museum, and the Chasemore fund, as well as collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions, to acquire watercolours. I am delighted that Toovey’s have already donated work. The new collection will allow the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery to borrow major works from national museums, broadening the breadth and quality of its already exciting exhibition program.

None of this would be possible without 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.

‘In Pursuit of the Watercolour’ is the latest exhibition at the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition celebrates the English pre-eminence in the medium of watercolour painting from the mid-18th century to the present day. The show is predominately formed of rarely seen watercolours from private collectors and ten works from the Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, including a wonderful view of the beach at Dover by J. M. W. Turner.

Curated by Jeremy Knight, the exhibition puts a spotlight on the broad range of watercolour painting between the 18th and 21st centuries.

The exhibition makes apparent how British watercolour painting moves from the recording of the topographical to a Romantic, personal impression of a particular place. Many argue that the poetic landscape of the romantic imagination is born out of Constable and Turner’s work.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), A beach scene at Dover, Loaned by Worthing Museum and Art Gallery
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), A beach scene at Dover, Loaned by Worthing Museum and Art Gallery

J.M.W. Turner would famously break free from the confines of convention and tradition recording impressions of the elemental in nature. The grey wash of his landscape ‘A beach at Dover’, gives a dramatic impression. It is a great treat to observe this rarely seen work.

John Claude Nattes’ landscape ‘Horsham on a Windy Day’ reflects something of the Horsham District’s rural identity today. It was acquired for the collection with help from the V & A Purchase Fund and the Friends of Horsham Museum.

Clarkson Frederick Stanfield RA (1793-1867), Study for the oil painting A Market Boat on the Scheldt, circa 1826, donated by Toovey’s Auctioneers & Valuers to Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s Watercolour Collection
Clarkson Frederick Stanfield RA (1793-1867), Study for the oil painting A Market Boat on the Scheldt, circa 1826, donated by Toovey’s Auctioneers & Valuers to Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s Watercolour Collection

Clarkson Frederick Stanfield’s ‘A Market Boat on the Scheldt’, is a study for an oil painting in the V & A. and has been donated by Toovey’s Auctioneers & Valuers to the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s Watercolour Collection. After Turner, Stanfield was considered the greatest marine painter in Britain at the time. John Ruskin preferred Stanfield’s watercolours to his oils as they were more natural and less contrived. He thought him the ‘leader of our English Realists’.

I am proud that Toovey’s are sponsoring the exhibition and catalogue ‘In pursuit of the watercolours’. Toovey’s picture specialist, Nicholas Toovey, will be fund raising for the collection between 10am and 12noon on Saturday, 1st October 2016, offering free pre-sale valuations on your watercolours, prints and paintings at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE. A third of the seller’s commission for items seen at the event which are subsequently auctioned by Toovey’s will be donated to the Friends of Horsham Museum. Sellers will receive the full amount they would normally get but they will know that they have helped the Museum as well. This exceptional exhibition runs from 24th September to 15th October 2016 and admission is free.

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.

Autumn in Sussex

José Weiss’ oil painting of the River Arun and Amberley chalk pits at dusk
José Weiss’ oil painting of the River Arun and Amberley chalk pits at dusk

As autumn approaches we look to the changes in the season, perhaps a last and precious glimpse of summer before the leaves fall. The morning dew has been lying heavily on the fields and the geese call to each other in their V-shaped formations as they fly on their winter migration. I am always excited by the fruits of the hedgerows, especially the blackberries and elderberries. In orchards across Sussex apples and quince are gathered and there is a sharper quality to the breeze on an incoming tide.

There is a wonderful sense of journeying and returning in the seasons of year – a time to reflect. T.S. Elliott had strong associations with Sussex. Writing from a perspective of Christian faith he observed the seasons in his poem ‘Little Gidding’:

Oliver Clare’s Still Life of Quince, Grapes and Berries, in Naturalistic Setting
Oliver Clare’s Still Life of Quince, Grapes and Berries, in Naturalistic Setting

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.’

The Downs are beginning to change from their warmer summer hues to the cooler greens so beautifully depicted in José Weiss’ oil painting of Amberley chalk pits, viewed from the river Arun at dusk. José Weiss was born in Paris in 1859. He holidayed and painted at Amberley where he met Agnes Ratton. They were married and made their home at Houghton. Weiss would become famous for his Sussex views, particularly from along the river Arun.

The abundance of the autumn hedgerow has inspired successive generations of artists.

The painter Oliver Clare’s technique even captures dewdrops on the texture of the fruit. The naturalistic setting gives this jewel like still life context, connecting it with nature.

A pair of Royal Worcester bone china two handled urns and covers, painted by M. Morris, after 1950 with still life studies of fruit
A pair of Royal Worcester bone china two handled urns and covers, painted by M. Morris, after 1950 with still life studies of fruit

The translucence of the glaze adds life to ceramic artist M. Morris’ still life painted on the pair of Royal Worcester bone china urns and covers. Here peaches accompany the blackberries of the hedgerows.

The seasons continue to inspire us as they did writers and artists in the early and mid – 20th century. We delight in the joy of gathering blackberries and apples for a pie. Walks along ancient lanes and footpaths in the Weald, on the Downs and by the sea connect us with the Sussex landscape.

This delight is reflected in collectors’ interest to acquire art and objects which speak into our experience of this marvellous country. Prices for pieces of this quality range from hundreds of pounds into the low thousands at auction.

Whether you are foraging for art or the blessings of the approaching autumn season allow yourself time to reflect in the landscape.

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 Studio Collection of Claude Muncaster

Claude Muncaster painting at Littlehampton
Claude Muncaster painting at Littlehampton

Toovey’s are delighted to include the Studio Collection of Claude Grahame Muncaster, RWS, ROI, RBA, SMA (1903-1974) in their June auction of Fine Art on Wednesday 15th June 2016. The collection consigned for sale by a descendant of the artist.

Lot 33 Claude Muncaster 'Downs from Bury Gate Marshes', oil on canvas
Lot 33 Claude Muncaster 'Downs from Bury Gate Marshes', oil on canvas

Claude Muncaster was born in West Chiltington, West Sussex, the son of artist Oliver Hall RA. Born Grahame Hall, he changed his name for exhibitions and later by deed-poll to stop any comparisons or confusion with his father’s work.

Lot 37 Claude Muncaster 'View from the Fifth Tee, Cowdray', watercolour
Lot 37 Claude Muncaster 'View from the Fifth Tee, Cowdray', watercolour

He is equally well known for his marine subjects as his depictions of the British landscape and enjoyed great success in his own lifetime. He immortalised the Sussex landscape in his watercolours and oils. His work is represented in many public collections, including the Royal Academy of Arts, Tate, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, National Railway Museum and Royal Air Force Museum.

Lot 13 Claude Muncaster 'Majorcan Shipbuilding Yard (Palma)', watercolour
Lot 13 Claude Muncaster 'Majorcan Shipbuilding Yard (Palma)', watercolour

Claude Muncaster published a number of books, including ‘Rolling Round the Horn’ in 1933, a narrative of a voyage on a sailing ship from Australia to the British Isles, and ‘Landscape and Marine Painting’ in 1958 on painting techniques.

Lot 2 Claude Muncaster 'The Frozen Thames in December', watercolour
Lot 2 Claude Muncaster 'The Frozen Thames in December', watercolour

‘The Wind in the Oak’ was written by his son, Martin Muncaster, which covered the life, work and philosophy of his father. In his foreword for the book, H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, wrote: ‘… I look at Claude Muncaster’s landscape watercolours at Sandringham and Balmoral and the one big landscape in oils and I wonder in hopeless mystification just how he managed to do it. It is not that he just had a talent for applying paint, he had an unerring instinct for a subject and with some sort of secret antenna he was able to sense the atmosphere and then incorporate it into the picture in a way which was uniquely his. Technique and observation obviously played their parts, but there is more to it than that. Attitude, experience, application; certainly, but in the end there is no other word for it than sheer talent.’