TOAST Magazine

Pallant House Gallery | Art at Home


In this series, we whisk you around some of our favourite museums, galleries and sculpture parks across the UK, and select works and objects from each that relate to family life, home and nature.

There’s something about Pallant House Gallery in Chichester that lifts the spirits. The panelled interior of the handsome Queen Anne townhouse, along with its light-filled extension, extend a friendly welcome. The works on the walls are by the protagonists of modern British art: Barbara Hepworth, Paul Nash, Lucian Freud and others. “It’s almost like visiting a collector in their home,” says director Simon Martin. A collector who invites you to enjoy your lunch in a sun-dappled courtyard, next to sculptures by Tracey Emin and Eduardo Paolozzi.

Images inspired by the British countryside bring the outside in, from the rolling hills of the South Downs to the seaside abstractions of the artists living and working in the windswept harbour town of St Ives. The gallery is best-known for its celebrated collection of modern British art, but it’s also home to contemporary works by artists such as Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread, and a budding international collection that includes paintings by Paul Cézanne and Édouard Vuillard. Contemporary artists delight in creating work in a space that’s rich in history: site-specific murals by the German abstract artist Lothar Götz and Argentinian-born Pablo Bronstein currently enliven two staircases.

“We seek to make Modern British art relevant to our visitors and encourage art to be a part of people’s creative lives,” says Martin. During these past few weeks that mission has expanded; it now includes offering resources and craft activities to inspire would-be visitors to explore and make art at home. Here we bring you a handful of works to admire from your living room and seek out when Pallant House Gallery reopens.

Lemons in a Blue Basket (1922) by Christopher Wood

Wood had a magpie-like knack for wheedling into his work the styles and techniques of his contemporaries. An Englishman in Paris, he learned from Cézanne, Van Gogh and Picasso, and in doing so developed his own distinctive, childlike way of seeing the world. Here he gives us a still life composed with a yellow and blue palette. The lemons are a study in light and dark, the artist’s brushstrokes visible, while the woven basket and ruffled tablecloth are palpably real. Fitting from a young man who, at the age of 19, became an apprentice at a fruit importer in London.

Les Grands Baigneurs (The Large Bathers) (1898) by Paul Cézanne

Drawing on a classical tradition of goddesses and nymphs bathing in dappled groves, Cézanne returned again and again to the subject of male and female nudes in a landscape. Here he gives us a sketchy blue impression of male nudes in various stages of undress, with a mountainous backdrop cloaked in billowing clouds. His bathers may not have been inspired by a literary source, but they’re at one with nature: one lies flat on his back in the grass while another stands upright, mirroring the position of a nearby tree.

Sussex River, near Midhurst (1965) by Ivon Hitchens (Top Image)

Squint and you can just about make out the river running through Hitchens’s sensory landscape painting. Patches of golden yellow evoke fields of rape, flourishes of brown the overhanging branches of trees. The British modern artist produced a remarkable body of work that captured his rural surroundings in Sussex and the accompanying weather conditions. With his vibrant palette and gestural mark making, he captures tranquillity, birdsong, a gentle breeze.

Girl Sitting at a Table (1909) by Peter Ilsted

There’s something soothing about this mezzotint. Perhaps it’s the hazy finish – the fine mist of moody greys – or the presence of the woman with her back to us, sitting at a desk that faces a wall. Ilsted, along with his brother-in-law Vilhelm Hammershøi, was a leading artist in early 20th-century Denmark and devoted himself to depicting scenes of everyday life: in this case, a simply dressed girl with curled hair who might be reading, sewing or simply resting her eyes.

Still Life No. 2 (1927) by Paul Nash

There’s a glimpse of nature inside and out in this print by the great war artist, who also painted landscapes and reworked the natural world in his art. A leafy arrangement sprouts from an angular jug, and beyond the wavy screen a door opens onto a copse of bare, crooked trees. Like Nash’s martial works, it’s tinged with melancholy. A couple of the sprigs in the vase are bent, on the brink of snapping and losing their leaves.

Roman Standard (2005) by Tracey Emin

This may be one of Emin’s more subdued and contemplative works, but it exudes a quiet power. A lifelike bird – cast in bronze – perches atop a tall, slender metal pole. The title nods to the militaristic flags and banners that were carried into battle in ancient Rome. Emin’s solitary standard is small, but it commands attention – not least because it fools us into thinking it’s real. “Most public sculptures are a symbol of power which I find oppressive and dark,” said the artist. “I wanted something that had a magic and alchemy, something which would appear and disappear and not dominate.”

1946 (still life – cerulean) (1946) by Ben Nicholson

Nicholson too sought inspiration in the everyday, taking ordinary objects and turning them into extraordinary works of art. His studio was piled high with patterned jugs, glass goblets, spanners, chisels and other tools, all of which cropped up in his work. Over the years, his style morphed from semi-figurative to abstract, but the tabletop still life held firm at the heart of his practice. In this Cubistic painting, you can just about make out the faint outline of a handle and the elegant curve of a beaker among the clear-cut shards of opaque colour.

Geoff and Scruffy Series (1956) by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

Although abstract, Barns-Graham’s art was made in response to the real world around her. Some say this painting was inspired by the relationship between Geoffrey Tribe and his dog Scruffy – specifically the sight of the pooch sitting on his owner’s knee – while others see in its half-circle and connecting lines Porthmeor beach in St Ives, where the Scottish-born artist lived.

Cup (1974) by William Scott

Scott’s kitchen-table still lifes help us to appreciate the simple things: a few boiled eggs, a couple of ripe pears, fresh mackerel on a plate, pots and pans, a bunch of grapes. In his art he blurs the line between the figurative and the abstract, producing paintings that make us consider colour and form. Here a creamy-white cup floats in space beside an open and upturned packet of Gauloise cigarettes. A morning ritual, perhaps.

Modèle assise dans un fauteuil, se coiffant (c.1903) by Édouard Vuillard

Vuillard’s oil painting of a model in his studio in Paris marks his transition from the decorative style of the Nabis – a group that rejected perspective and modelling – towards naturalism. The French painter captures an intimate moment as the model, dressed in a white slip and black boots, and seemingly unaware that the session has begun, sits on a chair draped with fabrics and combs her hair.

Words by Chloë Ashby

Pallant House Gallery will reopen with two exhibitions: Barnett Freeman: Designs for Modern Britain and Drawn to Nature: Gilbert White and the Artists.

Image Credits: Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Geoff and Scruffy Series, 1956, Oil on card, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (The George and Ann Dannatt Gift, 2011) © The Barns-Graham Charitable Trust. Paul Cézanne, Les Grands Baigneurs (The Large Bathers), 1898, Lithograph on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Kearley Bequest, through The Art Fund, 1989) © Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK. Tracey Emin, Roman Standard (edition 2 of 6), 2005, Cast bronze on metal pole finished with silver nitrate, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Accepted under the Cultural Gifts Scheme by HM Government from Frank Dunphy and allocated to Pallant House Gallery, 2018) © The Artist Courtesy: Tracey Emin Studio Photo: Christopher Ison 2018. Ivon Hitchens, Sussex River, near Midhurst, 1965, Oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © Estate of the Artist. Peter Ilsted, Girl Sitting at a Table, 1909, Mezzotint on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (The Elizabeth Burney Bequest 2018). Paul Nash, Still Life (No.2), 1927, Wood engraving on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (The Clare Neilson Collection Presented by Jeremy Greenwood and Alan Swerdlow through The Art Fund, 2013). Ben Nicholson, 1946 (still life – cerulean), 1946, Oil on canvas over board, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Kearley Bequest, through The Art Fund, 1989) © Angela Verren Taunt. All rights reserved, DACS 2020. William Scott, Cup, 1974, Gouache and collage on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (The George and Ann Dannatt Gift, 2011) © Estate of William Scott. Édouard Vuillard, Modèle assise dans un fauteuil, se coiffant, c.1903, oil on board, 61 x 67cm, Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax from the estate of Lord Hutchinson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery 2019. Christopher Wood, Lemons in a Blue Basket, 1922, Oil on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council, 1985) © Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, UK

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