Old Masters, Modern Masters: Drawings from the Hussey Bequest
[ Exhibition )
To mark Pallant House Gallery’s 40th anniversary in 2022, we explored a selection of drawings from our founding collection, the Hussey Bequest.
Old Masters, Modern Masters told the story of Walter Hussey, Dean of Chichester Cathedral 1955-1977, and his unique private art collection – a collection that was formed with the help of his artist friends, and bequeathed to the city of Chichester. The drawings on display in the Print Room span 500 years of British and European history and include works on paper by Giulio Romano, Jean-Antoine Watteau and Thomas Gainsborough.
Walter Hussey was a patron of the arts and is best remembered for commissioning modern artists to create work for the Church. Several of these artworks can still be seen in Chichester Cathedral today.
As a result of his church commissions, Hussey became close friends with a number of Modern British artists including David Jones, Henry Moore, John Piper, and Graham Sutherland, all of whom are represented in the exhibition.
These artists allowed Hussey to buy their work for reduced prices; they educated him on contemporary art, and advised him on which historic works to buy for his collection. Their views could be contradictory with the artist John Piper writing to Hussey in 1958 to tell him,
‘Don’t listen to Graham and Kathy [Sutherland] on the subject of abstraction as opposed to figuration. And don’t listen to the Huxleys on the subject of art at all.’
Yet, the influential dialogue and exchange of education between artist and patron became vital in shaping Hussey’s collection, as well as these artists’ own works. The sculptor Henry Moore famously said to Hussey that, ‘it is only through our art that we can understand your theology.’
The theme of influence, and the passing of knowledge between artists and patron reveals a compelling story, which is told through the unique juxtapositions of Old Masters and Modern British art.
This bijou exhibition offers a rare chance to some the extraordinary ‘hidden secrets’ housed at Pallant House. Never has there been a better time to hop on a train south.