Edward Burra, Landscape near Rye, 1943-45
Previously I visited a very good exhibition of Newlyn School painting at this impressive Thames-side gallery, so I was keen to see the latest show, Sussex modernism- retreat and rebellion, which runs until April 23rd (see website for full details).
I have written elsewhere on this blog about such artists as Paul Nash, Eric Ravilious, John Piper and Graham Sutherland and in this small three rooms show samples of their work are conveniently collected together.
Eric Ravilious, Interior at Furlongs, 1939
It is a free exhibition and the venue itself is a very grand panelled mansion with beamed ceilings and stained glass windows. In itself it is worth the visit but the opportunity to see so many works together and to discover artists (David Jones, Eric Gill and Pavel Tchelitchew) and new links between them was unmissable.
Members of the Bloomsbury Group- Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolfe and others- settled in Sussex seeking inspiration away from London. They attracted others to them and an astonishing roll call of artists forged links with the Sussex coast.
Paul Nash based himself in Rye during the early 1920s when painting the sea at Dymchurch; his friend Edward Burra was also present, along with Nash’s alter lover Eileen Agar. Burra did not appreciate Rye, which he described as a “ducky little TinkerBell towne … like an itsy bitsy morgue, quayte dead.”
Edward Wadsworth, Bronze ballet, 1940
Wadsworth’s picture above reminds us that war encroached twice upon this apparent idyll. Wadsworth recalled hearing the guns in France from the Downs during 1914-18 and the view of Le Havre painted above was made within earshot of the German assault upon Calias and Abbeville. Burra too has war art displayed.
My favourite painting I cannot reproduce presently; it is from the Edward James Collection at West Dean College, outside Chichester, and is ‘Hide and seek’ by Pavel Tchelitchew (1934). It is a splendid gothic image of girls climbing a strange, contorted tree, whilst a ghostly white moth hovers near. The message is mysterious and unsettling and for m (perversely perhaps) it was star of the show. If you are near the strand between now and late April, I strongly recommend a visit, if only to enjoy this picture!