SUSSEX MODERNISM, RETREAT AND REBELLION
Two Temple Place, London WC2, to 23rd April
One of the principal functions of Two Temple Place, a fine Victorian Gothic townhouse on the Embankment that was originally the Astor estate office and is now owned by the charitable Bulldog Trust, is to provide a London shop window for out-of-town publicly owned collections. This latest show is an admirable demonstration of the idea’s value, as the exhibits are drawn not just from one museum, but from nine cultural centres across both East and West Sussex.
When it was first proposed, there must have been a ‘Why has no one done this before?’ moment as it became obvious how much the Bloomsberries’ Charleston, Edward James’s West Dean, Penrose’s Farley and Eric Gill’s Ditchling had in common, and what could be added from the De La Warr Pavilion, the Jerwood, Pallant House and the Brighton and Towner galleries. Sussex began to attract ‘modernists’ towards the end of the 19th century, as the railways made part-time country life more practical for Londoners. Burne-jones and Kipling were among the first, followed by many writers as well as artists. However, the 20th-century immigration was on a greater scale, and the modernists who settled attracted others as visitors.
Despite the umbrella, however, this show cannot hope to be fully coherent, since ‘modernism’ covers so many different groups, styles and indeed ideas. It is well worth visiting and pondering, though. Two Temple Place is doing Sussex proud – Floreat Astoria!
Furthermore, Temple Place is only open to the public during exhibitions, and is itself a treat.