A colourful and revelatory exhibition that captures the ‘quintessential Englishness’ of Sussex’s countryside is on at Horsham Museum.
The Drawn to the Heart of Sussex selection features the sights unseen by many as captured by artists’ explorations of the Sussex’s landscape.
They came in the late 19th and early 20th century by train, charabanc and bicycle to paint a landscape in transition from a once wealthy region battling the effects of agricultural depression and depopulation with magnificent buildings lying surrounded by unploughed fields, vistas unspoilt by housing, a visual blight that bedevilled the Sussex coastline.
Today we marvel at such rural splendour, but over 100 years ago it showed rural poverty not a culture of ‘back to nature’. With the pressure of housing needs such scenes are to be preserved; they are here at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum in oil and watercolour.
Paintings by Gerald Ackermann, Stewart Acton and John Bramham capture iconic images of Chanctonbury Ring from Storrington Downs, while George Goodwin Kilburne painted the gatehouse to Ewhurst Manor and yet another artist an image of Cowfold Church.
Drawn to the Heart of Sussex covers some 200 square miles, a region today demarcated by the political boundary of Horsham District Council, yet its roots go way back way to medieval times; this is reflected in the views of the timber framed buildings of Steyning, portrayed by John Rendle in an illustrative format.
Collected over the last 40 years, the paintings on show are views of a region, collected for their subject matter rather than the artist, though occasionally the importance of both collide in one image, such as with Claude Muncaster, a famous maritime painter born at West Chiltington. His painting of the South Downs looking towards Amberley is on display.
This exhibition is remarkable in that it makes the visitor return to places they have seen with a new vision. The artists have captured what they have missed and it provides an ideal opportunity to re-explore. This summer Drawn to the Heart of Sussex is an ideal exhibition for ‘staycation’ and tourist.
The exhibition is at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum from July 25 to August 31, admission free.