Unflinching Exploration, Walter Sickert at Tate

Walter Sickert - Brighton Pierrots © Tate
Walter Sickert – Brighton Pierrots © Tate

Tate Britain’s summer exhibition focuses on the controversial and influential British artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) who bridged the influence of Paris and Post-Impressionist painting to Britain.

Sickert had studied at the Slade in 1881 under Whistler who had a great influence on him. In 1883 he found himself in Paris where he encountered Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet and Pierre Bonnard. The exhibition has works by Degas and Manet illustrating the affect they had on his work.

Sickert lived in and near Dieppe in the early 1900s. He returned to London in 1905 where he rented two studios. On Saturday afternoons he would keep his studio open to a group of artists which gave rise to the birth of the Fitzroy Street Group. As they were joined by a series of other artists their work came to be described as Camden Town painting. The paintings are often intimate in scale depicting the working class in humble scenes with figurative interiors including nudes as well as townscapes. These themes are readily apparent in the breadth of Sickert’s work. Sickert led the group with an unflinching exploration and depiction of his subjects. In different works throughout the show the artist captures despair, hardship and beauty.

In contrast to Whistler’s slightness of tone and form Sickert employed an increasingly contrasting palette which included deep opaque colours that lend a monumental character to his work. These qualities are apparent in Brighton Pierrots painted in 1915. It is highly original in its composition and use of warm, vivid colours. Unusually Sickert produced two versions of the picture. We view the scene from the side of the stage separated from the audience and the performers. This perspective lends an ambiguity to the painting – the fading daylight broken by the glare of the stage lights. The empty deck chairs allude to losses at the front during the Great War. The sense of the desolation of war pervades.

Walter Sickert – The Front at Hove (Turpe Senex Miles Turpe Senilis Amor), detail, © Tate

The Front at Hove was painted in 1930. Although lighter in palette and tone, the picture is also filled with metaphors which relate to age and decline. The aged figures chatting on a promenade bench are reflected and framed by the crumbling facades of the Regency townhouses in Adelaide Crescent, Hove.

Tate’s exhibition is as unflinching in its exploration of Walter Sickert and his work as the artist was in his exploration and depiction of the world he lived in. Walter Sickert at Tate Britain runs until 8th September. To book tickets and to find out more visit tate.org.uk.

International Surrealism at Tate Unites London and Sussex

Salvador Dalí Lobster Telephone, c.1938, Tate © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2022

A major exhibition exploring the international Surrealist art movement is the subject of an ambitious and expansive exhibition at Tate Modern. Surrealism Beyond Borders explores how, from its beginnings in Paris in the 1920s, Surrealism evolved into the 1970s becoming an interconnected global movement.

Two of the most iconic works in the show associated with the revolutionary idea of Surrealism, Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone and René Magritte’s Time Transfixed, have connections with the patron Edward James whose Sussex home was West Dean, now the famous college. Edward James encountered and embraced Surrealism through his friendship with Magritte.

Tate’s exhibition has been curated in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art in New York. It examines how Surrealism came into being in Paris around 1924 generating poetic and humorous works as artists set out to de-familiarise the familiar. Inspired by Sigmund Freud they looked to dreams to unlock the unconscious mind. It also explores an international, evolving narrative of how Surrealism continues to be embraced by artists across the world to promote political, social and personal freedoms, often providing a voice for change.

I first encountered Salvador Dalí’s playful Lobster Telephone at West Dean. Dalí produced it to contrast with the formal grandeur of Edward James’s Wimpole Street, London home where sober rooms were theatrically transformed.

It was the critic Herbert Read, and writer and Surrealist artist Roland Penrose who, through the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, first introduced the concept to the British public.

René Magritte Time Transfixed, c.1938, The Art Institute of Chicago © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022

Edward James invited Magritte to paint a number of works for his ballroom in London. Time Transfixed was the result. The viewer cannot fail to be delighted by the contrast of Magritte’s precise realism and the surprising juxtapositions and scale of seemingly unrelated elements. The artist would later explain ‘I decided to paint the image of a locomotive…In order for its mystery to be evoked, another immediately familiar image without mystery—the image of a dining room fireplace—was joined.’ I am always captivated by the subtle conceits of this painting: the smoke rises from the locomotive up the chimney as though it is emerging from a tunnel and only one candlestick has a reflection in the mirror.

Magritte hoped it would hang on the staircase to ‘transfix’ visitors but Edward James hung it above one of his own fireplaces.

This Surrealist exhibition has the power to transfix and runs at Tate Modern until 29th August 2022. To find out more and to book tickets visit tate.org.uk.

Tate Gallery Curator Opens Horsham’s Festival of Watercolours

Alison Smith, Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery
Alison Smith, Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

‘In Pursuit of the Watercolours’ is at the centre of a festival celebrating British watercolour painting at the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition was opened by the Tate Gallery’s Lead Curator of British Art to 1900, Alison Smith, in the company of Horsham District Council Chairman, Christian Mitchell and a large gathering of art lovers.

As I reported last week the museum has recently changed its collecting policy and 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 significance.

The project will require the continued patronage of The Friends of Horsham Museum, as well as collectors, businesses, trusts and institutions, in order to acquire watercolours. Toovey’s have already donated work.

From left to right: Jonathan Chowen, Nicholas Toovey, Christian Mitchell and Jeremy Knight
From left to right: Jonathan Chowen, Nicholas Toovey, Christian Mitchell and Jeremy Knight

Tate Curator, Alison Smith, expressed her delight to find important watercolourists like J.M.W. Turner, Francis Wheatley, Thomas Rowlandson, John Varley and John Piper represented in an exhibition at Horsham. She praised the Horsham District Council (HDC) for its support of the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, offering particular thanks to HDC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture, Jonathan Chowen, and Curator, Jeremy Knight. Alison went on to acknowledge the ‘enormous’ contribution made by picture specialist, Nicholas Toovey, to the exhibition and catalogue, as well as Toovey’s Fine Art Auctioneers long term support of the Museum. She concluded by wishing the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery every success in forming its new watercolour collection.

Dudley Hardy (1867-1922) – ‘The Bird Fanciers’, watercolour, loaned from a private collection
Dudley Hardy (1867-1922) – ‘The Bird Fanciers’, watercolour, loaned from a private collection

The domestic scale and subtle nature of many English watercolours are particularly suited to the British temperament, sensibilities and weather. But watercolour offers artists a depth of colour too. Watercolourists have often recorded the world at home and abroad. During the 19th century there was an increasing interest in the exotic, especially the art, architecture and culture of North Africa, Arabia and the Middle East. Art reflecting these subjects is now known as ‘orientalism’. Dudley Hardy produced many orientalist works and my eye is taken by his watercolour ‘The Bird Fanciers’ which is a prime example of the genre. Here Hardy fuses the compositional elements of his father, Thomas Bush Hardy, with the exotic landscape, costume and colours of Algiers.

Whilst the exhibition centres on the Golden Age of watercolour painting in Britain in the 18th and early 19th centuries it also has work from the 17th to the 21st century including paintings by leading contemporary watercolourist, Gordon Rushmer. Gordon is holding a series of masterclasses at the museum to support the festival and collection.

Toovey’s picture specialist, Nicholas Toovey, will be at The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, The Causeway, Horsham, RH12 1HE, between 10am and 12noon, this Saturday, 1st October 2016. He will be sharing his passion for the British watercolour and offering free valuations on your pictures. Come and discover whether your watercolour is actually by a famous artist!

To support the building of this important new collection of watercolours 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 will know that they have helped the Museum as well.

The accompanying catalogue provides a marvellous introduction and insight to the delights of British watercolours. To find out more about ‘In Pursuit of the Watercolour’ exhibition and events in the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s Festival of Watercolours 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

Eduardo Paolozzi Sculptures & Prints for sale at Toovey’s

Lot 54 Eduardo Paolozzi at Toovey's
Lot 54: Eduardo Paolozzi 'Newton after William Blake' plaster relief

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005) was a British sculptor, printmaker, filmaker and writer. He is regarded as one of the most inventive British artists to come to prominence after the Second World War with his legacy ranging from pop art to monumental public works.

0008 Eduardo Paolozzi at Toovey's
Lot 8: '72 Aeschylus & Socrates, see App 4 #123…' by Eduardo Paolozzi

He attended St Martin’s School of Art in 1944, continuing his studies in sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art where, despite his teacher’s disapproval, he discovered the work of Pablo Picasso. This influence is plain to see in his sculptures and cubist-derived collages. On a trip to France he was exposed to surrealism, which gave him the foundations for all future work. It was also while in Paris, Paolozzi produced rudimentary collages from the adverts contained within American glossy magazines that echoed Dada photomontage. These early examples of pop art were the focus of a recent exhibition at Pallant House Gallery, featured by Rupert Toovey in his article ‘“Collaging Culture” at Pallant House Gallery‘.

His large public sculptures were numerous, in Britain they included the mosaic decoration in Tottenham Court Road underground station, a bronze figure of Isaac Newton for the entrance of the British Library, an abstract monument for Euston Square in London and a large sculpture for the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh. Eduardo Paolozzi was made a CBE in 1968, an RA in 1979 and a knight in 1989. The Tate Gallery had a retrospective exhibition of Paolozzi’s work in 1971.

Throughout Paolozzi’s career the human form, language and a fascination of industrial engineering remained as sources of inspiration. These influences can all be seen in a single owner collection of works by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi to be offered at Toovey’s on 26th March 2014. The collection of plaster and bronze sculptures and prints by Paolozzi was discovered by Rupert Toovey in an attic in Newhaven. In his recent article Rupert states:

“This exciting collection provides a valuable insight into the work of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi. There are iconic examples and more modest pieces expressing the joy and humour in his view of the world, often with a surrealist influence. Paolozzi’s work is layered, textural and thought-provoking, delighting the eye and the mind.”

The single owner collection will be offered for sale as part of the Selected Fine Art Auction (Lots 1-68) on Wednesday 26th March 2014. Viewing for the auction commences on Saturday 22nd March between 9.30am and 12 noon. Click here to view the collection online.