Picturing the District

Artists have flocked to Horsham district, inspired by the peoples and places, to create a varied canvas that portrays a district of great personality and colour. Picturing the district is a masterpiece created out of local scenes that has many surprises.

250 years ago, an artist, George Robertson, who had been in the Caribbean painting the rich vibrant colours of tropical light, came to Horsham and painted Warnham Mill Bridge. Remarkably, the fantastic painting of the nondescript bridge with anglers has survived and now takes centre stage in the fascinating, colourful and inspiring exhibition. The ‘how’ it has survived and ‘why’ it was painted makes the superbly executed painting even more interesting. It also acts as a perfect introduction to this colourful exhibition as it gives a hidden depth to the art on display. So, whilst the visitor can admire the scenes, the unknown back stories add a sense of mystery to the images.
The new temporary exhibition at Horsham District Council’s Horsham Museum and Art Gallery reveals how Horsham District, a land that lies between Brighton and London, has inspired artists. It shows how the everyday is in fact remarkable; from a cottage in Slinfold that caught Gillian Hobbs’ eye, to one in Amberley that inspired R B Wilson to pick up the brush; and why graves in a cemetery in the very centre of the district are so evocative, as seen by Gordon Rushmer.
Over the last 250 years, the art world has been transformed, from the introduction of water colours to contemporary art, with all the various art movements in between. Yet one thing has remained constant; the desire to paint landscapes, to capture that magical essence that makes all of us stand and stop to take in what we see. For Sidney Moss (RBA) it can be the industrial workings of Amberley chalk pits, or for Mr Heath, the windmill at Shipley. For others, it can be the village high street, from Amy Scott’s Bramber to Roxby Bott’s Billingshurst, a village that also inspired Fox. There is inspiration across the District, including a back garden in Henfield by Mrs Wells.
Dominating the south of the District is the ever looming presence of Chanctonbury Ring, a prehistoric hill fort enhanced by a crown of trees. The magisterial feature has caught the artist’s eye, creating either an eye-catching view, or a backdrop to everyday life going on its shadow. Edward Wesson caught the mood of the scene in winter; Charles Taylor in full summer heat.
This is the perfect exhibition to start the District’s Year of Culture, as it shows the rich and varied landscape that inspired artists, actors, poets, playwrights, craftsmen, musicians and dancers, but also forms a backdrop to activities and events that make the culture of the district.
Picturing the District opens This weekend (Saturday 5 January) and finishes 25 March, at Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, admission free.

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