Posted on Sep 15th 2023
William Chappell 1907-1994
The son of actors, William Chappell was born in Wolverhampton on 20 September 1907. His parents separated and his mother, Edith Blair-Staples, moved the family to Balham, South London c.1913, and became a fashion journalist. Chappell went on to Chelsea School of Art at the age of thirteen (1921); where he met Edward Burra, they soon became close and remained lifelong friends.
On leaving college in 1924, Chappell became committed to dance. He performed in and was given a crash course in classical ballet by Marie Rambert, whom he knew
through Frederick Ashton. Despite this late start he was to create a number of important roles. Throughout the 1930's, Chappell appeared in ballets produced by Rambert and Ninette de Valois's Vic-Wells company at Sadler's Wells (from 1934). He was also a talented painter and simultaneously began to make designs for the theatre which soon established his reputation as a distinguished stage designer.
Chappell edited two collections relating to his close friendship with Burra including the witty and fascinating ‘Well Dearie The Letters of Edward Burra (1985). Billy died in Rye on 1st January 1994.
We acquired these costume designs for our permanent collection so that they could be shown together with those already in the collection by Edward Burra.
The two pencil, ink and watercolour costume illustrations are signed, inscribed and dated 1948.
Both illustrations are from the production of "Sugar and Spice" shown at St Martin's Theatre, London from September 3rd until October 16th 1948.
'Mormon / Larry Drew' depicts the actor Larry Drew in mormon costume for the section 'The Mormon Who Couldn't Quit' by Hastings Mann. 'Child Wife / June Howard' depicts the actress June Howard in costume for the section 'Punch's Revenge' also by Hastings Mann.
Chappell provided the decor and costumes for the entire production.
Posted on Mar 1st 2023
Our latest permanent collection bequest has been kindly donated by Jacqueline Stanley's estate.
'Salon Selfie' is a large self portrait of Jackie, painted towards the end of 2016 in pastel and graphite.
Posted on Dec 22nd 2022
In November Rye Art Gallery received a personal bequest from the artist Raymond Ching.
A pencil-on-paper sketch of well-known local Rosemary Bagley created at Church Square in 1974.
Ching a New Zealander moved to Rye during the late 1960s. Shortly after in 1969 his famous book 'The Reader's Digest Book of British Birds' was published.
Posted on Jun 22nd 2022
Following the successful staging of Danny Pockets retrospective, 'Everlast". We are delighted to be showing 'Still Life with Lemons', which is now part of the permanent collection at Rye Art Gallery, the work was kindly donated by the Cuming family.
Posted on Mar 29th 2022
We are currently featuring in the Gallery this painting from the Collection - 'Portrait of Elizabeth', 1942, by Christine Young. It is in memory of the sitter.
It is a portrait of Gallery supporter and Friends Committee member Betty Ellwood who died this year and is sadly missed. It shows the sitter in pensive mood. On the table are a book, map and shells, including the pilgrim's scallop shell which is complete with ribbon and so is for wearing on a journey. Beyond the arches, reminiscent of those in De Chirico's surrealist paintings, is the sea.
We do not know anything of the artist except that she was a friend of Betty's. If you can tell us more we would be grateful. We think the painting is remarkable and an enigma. We do know that Betty was involved in work at Dover in WW2...
Posted on Mar 4th 2022
The image shows 'I'm Painting, Dearie', by John Wiltshire, purchased from the artist for the Collection in 2021.
On the left is a black and white photo showing Edward Burra and his sister Betsy on the beach as children. To the right is Burra's green tin box containing half-used tubes of watercolour paint. These are both in the Burra Archive observed by John during his Residency at the Gallery.
John's Fine Art degree is from Canterbury and he also has Qualified Teacher status. He exhibits accross the south east and East Anglia, is an award winner and has held residencies at the Botanic Gardens and at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Posted on Feb 26th 2022
During 2021 painter John Wiltshire spent time researching our Edward Burra Archive and creating responses to the items he found.
The Archive includes photographs, painting items such as brushes, paints and test sketches, but also many quirky small ornaments and unique objects which Burra had about his studio.
We are thrilled to accept John's donation of 'The Low Sly' and the Trust has purchased 'I'm Painting Dearie' and 'Toes In'. The three works were part of his exhibition 'B is for Burra' at the Gallery last autumn, alongside the adjoining exhibition 'Burra and Friends'.
Posted on Sep 11th 2021
During the exhibition 'Burra and Friends' these photos represent many more held in the Permanent Collection.
Some here show Burra (1905-1976), but also his closest friend William Chappell (1907-1994). Some of the photos are by Barbara Ker Seymer (1905-1993). He met both at Chelsea Art School and the friends remained in close contact for life.
Billy danced for Ballet Rambert and at the Vic Wells, later becoming a stage designer and director of over 40 productions. He wrote 'Edward Burra: A Painter remembered by his Friend' 1982 and edited Burra's letters in 'Well Dearie' 1985.
Barbara was a photographer, society girl, and later worked for a film studio.
Posted on Sep 11th 2021
We were delighted to welcome Julian on a visit to the Gallery.
We hold his dramatic, expressionist charcoal drawing of Rye Bay in the Collection. The image awakens our sense of being emotionally present in the tumultuous land and sea scape. It was purchased at the time of his exhibition 'Source to Sea' at the Gallery in 1990.
Julian is a Sussex-based artist inspired by the South Downs and its coast. He has a BA(Hons) in Fine Art from Brighton and post-graduate qualification from Cyprus.
Posted on Jun 29th 2021
Dr Diarmuid Hester, Fellow in English at Cambridge, visited the Gallery to research our Edward Burra Archive.
He was commissioned by Climate Art, a public art platform, to create an audio trail of some of the queer artists and writers, past and present, who have made Rye their home. They include artist Edward Burra and writers Henry James, E F Benson and Radclyffe Hall.
Entitled 'Against our Vanishing' the audio trail is free to download from www.climateart.org.uk
See also Diarmuid's Instagram @Dehester which can also be googled.
The image shows Edward Burra (1905 - 1976), a photo from the Archive.
Posted on Feb 13th 2021
The authors of a new book on the geology of Essex approached us for permission to use one of our Collection paintings as an illustration. We were delighted to agree.
The writers are Ian and Ros Mercer, Chair and Secretary of the Essex Rock and Mineral Society. Ian is the author of several books on geology and this new one will have a section on the use of lime and chalk in the county.
The Gallery's founder, Mary Stormont (nee Sapsworth) grew up in Essex and started her career as an artist there before moving to Rye.
Her oil painting 'The Lime Kiln, Maldon, Essex', is topographical but much more in it's selective palette and atmospheric tones. It is a useful record of early twentieth century lime production.