The Fittleworth Gallery
Based in the heart of the South Downs National Park, the Fittleworth Gallery has been created in a place renowned for Art and Artists over the last few hundred years(see following History page). A discreet and discerning Gallery we aim to provide a unique hub for Art and Artists from the South Downs as well as further afield, away from the bustle of the busy high street, valuing both traditional and historical art as well as the creativity and originality of more contemporary work.
The appreciation of art can be very individual and subjective. We encourage a wide range of talent and particularly enjoy discovering new and different original artists and giving them the opportunity to display work alongside more established and recognised talent.
We use a fair approach to encourage realistic pricing for artists while at the same time helping them develop and build their reputations and ability to sell their work through the growth in their range of skills and artistic talent. We aim to help them build their own reputation and consequently that of the Gallery. A cyclical process.
We seek to provide a fair deal to our customers by our own proactivity in discovering and encouraging new talent.
We welcome ongoing constructive feedback from our Artists and our customers to assist in building our reputation as a discerning and exciting hub for creative talent. Hoping you enjoy joining us on our journey.
Robert Hastings – Gallery Director
Fittleworth and the arts: A brief history
With its wide river valley, wooded hollows, picturesque buildings and the quiet, open vistas of its hilltop commons, the Fittleworth landscape has inspired many artists. Sketched by John Constable and JMW Turner, home to Rex Vicat Cole and a favoured stop of holidaying Victorian and Edwardian painters, the village has a rich history of artistic connections. These continue to the present day.
Perhaps originating from a Roman site in Sussex, early artefacts linked with the village include a carved fragment of a Roman column, discovered recently in a Fittleworth garden. The Parish Church, St Mary’s, dates back to at least the 11 th century and has an early 15 th -century font of local ‘Petworth marble’, decorated with rosettes. In the context of a domestic setting, a striking find was made in the 1960s when building work revealed geometric Elizabethan wall paintings in a house in the centre of the village.
Fittleworth’s picturesque qualities came to resonate with numerous landscape artists during the 19 th and early 20 th centuries. In the 1820s-30s, both John Constable (1776-1837) and JMW Turner (1775-1851) produced drawings and watercolour views of the area, perhaps through their links with the Earl of Egremont at Petworth House. Both artists sketched St Mary’s Church and Hesworth Common, as well as delicately coloured views of the water mill.
Many painters – including Scottish watercolourists – subsequently stayed at The Swan, described by photographer John Smith (1852-1925) as an “Artist’s Inn”. Artists, he wrote, came “year after year to this favourite haunt, and spent the greater part of the summer here”. They left their mark by sketching in the visitors’ books and filling the dining room walls with paintings of the local countryside. G Constable, probably George (a friend rather than relation) of John Constable; Tom Collier; George Vicat Cole; AW Weedon; Phillip Stretton; H Arnold; H E Cheeseman; E Edward; C Farmer; S F Knight; Walter Stuart Lloyd; and Ronald Ossory Dunlop were among those visiting. Said to have been given in lieu of board and lodging, many of their paintings remain at The Swan.
Other landscape artists settled in the village, among them Edward Wilkins Waite (1854-1924), who exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy, and Philip Hugh Padwick (1876-1958), who had studios in successive locations through the village. The landscape artist and teacher Rex Vicat Cole (1870-1940) moved to Fittleworth in 1906. Cole not only painted the surrounding area, but ran summer sketching courses and shared a studio just outside the village with the composer Edward Elgar.
Today, prominent artists continue to work within and close to the village, including sculptors, textile artists, potters and landscape painters.
Further details about the history of artists in Fittleworth can be found here.
With thanks to M. Welfare. Further acknowledgements: E. Black, J. Edgar, K. M. J. Hayward and M. Henig, ‘A New Sculpture of Iphigenia in Tauris’, Britannia, 43 (Nov 2012), 243-249; A. Brookfield, Fittleworth: A Time of Change 1895-1916 (Fittleworth: Hesworth Books, 2009); Fittleworth Miscellanea, https://fittleworth.wordpress.com; The Hon. Lady Maxse, The Story of Fittleworth (London: The National Review, 1935); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, oxforddnb.com; D. Tankard, ‘The Fittleworth Painted Panels’, www.wealddown.co.uk/explore/buildings/fittleworth-painted-panels/; M. Welfare, ‘Fittleworth Past and Present’, fittleworth-pc.org.uk/fittleworth-past-and-present/; M. Welfare, ‘Art and Artists in Fittleworth’, fittleworth-pc.org.uk/art-and-artists-in-fittleworth/; E. Williamson, T. Hudson, J. Musson and I. Nairn, Sussex: West (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019).