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The Hussey Bequest

Walter Hussey, the Dean of Chichester Cathedral from 1955-1977, bequeathed his art collection to the city of Chichester in 1985.

Walter Hussey’s collection centres around the artistic commissions he instigated at Chichester Cathedral where he was Dean from 1955 to 1977. Offered the position by Bishop George Bell, himself an advocate of modern church art, Hussey’s commissions were founded on the tenet that “Whenever anything new was required in the first seven hundred years of the history of the cathedral, it was put in the contemporary style”. His bequest includes preparatory works for the magnificent altar tapestry and festival vestments by John Piper, abstract collages by Ceri Richards for a set of copes and a version of Graham Sutherland’s ‘Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen’. Other works reflect Hussey’s former position at St Matthews in Northampton: a Crucifixion by Sutherland based on the major painting he commissioned in 1944 and drawings and small sculptures by Henry Moore whose controversial Madonna and Child at St Matthews in part provoked Sir Alfred Munnings’ infamous attack on modern art in his address to the Royal Academy in 1949. Many of these works were given as gifts through the friendships Hussey made with the artists he commissioned.

Hussey started his collecting career after a trip to the theatre in 1932 when he was inspired to buy one of the production’s costume designs for Romeo and Juliet. He later bought other stage designs by Léon Bakst and Alexandre Benois. His taste was informed and eclectic, encompassing prints by Old Masters such as Dürer and Rembrandt, drawings by Tiepolo and Watteau and some fine examples of 18th century British watercolours by Cozens and Varley.

The generous offer of his collection to Chichester District Council made upon his retirement in 1977 fuelled the foundation of Pallant House Gallery since Hussey made the gift dependent on the restoration of the Queen Anne townhouse to display his artworks.