On Englands pleasant pastures seen!* (W Blake – Jerusalem)
The English poet William Blake, whose celebrated poem Jerusalem gave inspiration for Horsham Museum’s new watercolour exhibition, sensed the public’s growing interest in England’s pastures green, born out of an awareness of nature, and of the picturesque. The poem was published over 200 years ago yet during the intervening years our interest in the pastoral hasn’t diminished, as the watercolours on show reveal. Taking inspiration from Blake’s celebrated poem the new temporary exhibition explores how watercolour artists have captured the essence of the English countryside.
The power of art is in demonstrating the ways in which so many artists capture things differently. On display is a superb watercolour of the Sussex countryside near Uckfield by Emerson Groom. The artist became a celebrated painter and etcher, and these influences can be seen in the formality and almost illustrative elements of the painting, with hard lines and blocks of colour. Groom’s work is a contrast with the far more relaxed painting by Alice Blanche Ellis of “A Farm road Steyning - a Homeward Trek” where the pallete gives the impression of, rather than illustrates the glorious countryside.
The museum’s watercolour collection has been built up extensively over the last year. One of the paintings on display, Gerald Ackermann’s Arundel Castle from the Downs, was donated to the collection by Toovey’s, the Washington based auction house. It compliments another view of the downs by Ackermann on display which shows Chanctonbury Ring from Storrington Downs and takes in the wonderful downland pastures that make Sussex such a popular haunt for tourists and were the motivation for the creation of the South Downs National Park.
With other works by Harrington, Penstone, Wilkinson, and a charming painting by Wainwright of sheep nestling in a hummock surrounded by pastures “on the Downs near Hassocks”, you can see why the English have a love affair with pastures.
On England Pleasant Pastures Seen is currently exhibiting until 23 March 2018.
*For the full text of the poem see https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54684/jerusalem-and-did-those-feet-in-ancient-time