Visual Arts: The Art of Drawing Pallant House, Chichester

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The Independent Culture
Over the past 40 years, Colin St John Wilson, the controversial architect of the British Library, has built up a substantial collection of modern and contemporary art. A selection from it is currently hanging in the exhibition galleries of Pallant House in Chichester. This elegantly restored Queen Anne townhouse near the cathedral already contains two distinguished personal collections, the bequests of Walter Hussey and Charles Kearley, works from which are always on display. The idea is that Pallant House should expand its premises and make a bid to become also the future permanent home of the St John Wilson Trust collection.

Although most of the works on show are in black and white, there are drawings in colour as well as paintings. Drawing is not an activity limited to descriptive lines made in pencil; it also takes place in a painting where two colours meet, or is used to give a sense of the mass of a thing rather than its contour. Nothing could be more different in approach than the exquisite Prunella Clough, entitled Drawing No 26, like a back-flipping dancer yet really only abstract rhythms, and the Paolozzi head from 1953, all lines of experience and anguish.

Patrick Caulfield is a painter known for the graphic explicitness of his style, yet very few of his drawings are ever seen. It is thus a double delight to see again his bold blue-suited portrait of the Cubist Juan Gris on a canary-yellow background, juxtaposed with a suite of 15 preparatory drawings, never previously exhibited. Done in pencil, ink and crayon, they map Caulfield's search for the right composition, evolving from a copy of a Cezanne self-portrait through geometric variations, to the final image of Juan Gris. For this fascinating series of working drawings alone, ranging in style from heavy cross-hatching to the speediest of outlines, the show is well worth visiting. But there are many other glories, including Giacometti's energising but cruel death's head of Matisse, glaring at extinction, and two sinisterly introspective Bomberg self-portraits.

One of Wilson's strengths as a collector is his passion for the sequential. For instance, four Sickerts of the same subject are on show: an oil, a drawing and an etching of around the same date, together with a later etching. Thus we see Sickert exploring an idea, and later refining and remarking it. Likewise with three Bombergs of The South-East Corner of Jerusalem. A preparatory charcoal study is a stunningly simple explanation of the bones of the landscape, its tensions and sinews. This view is rendered slightly more mechanistic in the next study, also very beautiful, with added colour. The third example is the landscape lushed up with oils, threatening to degenerate into chocolate-box, but easily avoiding it. It's always instructive to turn from the master to the pupil - in this case Dennis Creffield - whose drawings hang nearby. Creffield has taken the Bomberg passion and made it his own, in powerful evocations of cathedral architecture, and most recently in drawings of New York. These are works from a private collection of very high quality.

`The Art of Drawing' is at Pallant House, 9 North Pallant, Chichester (Tel: 01243 774557) until 21 June Andrew Lambirth

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