West Sussex: Artists and Collectors May 2015

Posted on Monday 1st June 2015

The Watts Gallery near Guildford

LAF member Sue Bourne writes;

Our coach took us to Cookham, on the river Thames, home of The Stanley Spencer Gallery, where the Curator of the present exhibition, who had come specially from London to lead us, interpreted the paintings, plus masses of background info. All the Leeds' Spencers were on loan so it was interesting seeing them with different neighbours. Another guide led us round the Village and Church, putting Spencer’s art works in context. This was the first of three small independent art galleries we saw in the course of our visit, all highly successful and models of community engagement in arts and heritage.

Then off over the Downs to the impressive grey and white flint building of West Dean College, formerly the stately home of Edward James, for our 2 night stay. No rest, but off for a grand house tour by the Curator Emma O’Driscoll who showed us many of James’ Surrealist treasures: the Lobster Telephone, the Mae West Lips Sofa, the Rex Whistler Carpet and many paintings by Pavel Tchelitchew, and finally a delicious dinner.

Next day, before embarking for Chichester, we were taken round 4 workshop tours of craftsmen/conservation students of furniture, led by Norbert Gutowski, clocks led by Matthew Reed, ceramics by Lorna Calcutt and scientific analysis by David Dorning, all with great attention to detail. It was very good to see the place where so many of Leeds’ treasures have been conserved in the past and to talk with the conservators. One of their biggest recent projects was the total conservation of the George Pyke Musical Clock which has only just returned to Temple Newsam.

Then into Chichester Cathedral where more dedicated guides gave us background info to the modern artworks there, not least the John Piper tapestry, the Graham Sutherland paintings, the Chagall stained glass and many more recently commissioned works. A few minutes’ walk and we were welcomed at Pallant House Gallery, a Queen Anne house with a fine modern addition, all showing British art, almost all gifts and bequests, right up to the most contemporary. An interesting exhibition of Leon Underwood had Leeds’ Family Group as one of its most striking loans. Then, phew, tea, coffee and biscuits! Off to a nearby village, where The Partridge Inn squeezed all 24 of us in for a delicious evening dinner!

We travelled back through leafy lanes via the Victorian G F Watts Gallery, welcomed by more excellent guides, plus, a few fields away, the amazingly decorated Watts Cemetery Chapel of 1904 designed by Mary Seton Watts. Mary had taught her local villagers how to model tiles from their local clay resulting in a totally unique, highly patterned building still in use today.

A huge thanks to our organisers and to Tony Broome our driver !