Horsham Museum reclaims Georgian artist John Claude Nattes for Sussex with landscapes show

By Richard Moss | 13 September 2010
a painting of a windswept landscape with trees, stone gatehouse, timber house and two figures in the foreground
John Claude Nattes, Horsham Park House© Horsham Museum
Exhibition: Views of Georgian Sussex: The Drawings of John Claude Nattes, Horsham Museum, Horsham, until October 9 2010

Among the many topographical and architectural artists who proliferated during the Georgian building boom, John Claude Nattes is perhaps best remembered for his drawings and watercolours of Edinburgh, Bath and Lincolnshire.

Like many of his contemporaries, Nattes' detailed renderings of new architectural features, set among romanticised landscapes, were popular with the gentry of the day and have been an ever-present on place mats and chocolate boxes down the ages.

Now a new acquisition and accompanying exhibition at Horsham Museum is uncovering the artist's hitherto overlooked Sussex connections.

Forgotten Views of Georgian Sussex: The Drawings of John Claude Nattes centres on a painting recently acquired by Horsham Museum called Horsham Park House. Purchased with help from the Friends of Horsham Museum and the V&A Purchase Grant fund, it depicts the gates of the house set amongst a typically idealistic landscape of windswept trees.

Described by curators as possessing a "wild windy gloss that matched the passion of the day", the watercolour ticks many of the boxes required by an expanding domestic art market that was fuelled by lack of access to a Europe blighted by the Napoleonic Wars.    

A rich selection of Sussex views borrowed from The Royal Collection, Hastings Museum and private collectors joins the painting and includes views of the landscapes around Horsham, Slaugham Place and Sompting Church. 

It is thought Nattes was a regular visitor to Horsham and Sussex throughout the 1780s and 1790s. One sketch in an album, now part of The Royal Collection housed at Windsor Castle, is titled View of Mr Aldridge's near Horsham taken 30 August in 1784 in Company with Mr W Blunt. Blunt was a landowner who built one of the town's most prestigious properties, Springfield Park.

The exhibition also includes several views of Hastings which have never been seen outside the town before and a selection of sketches of Georgian Bath. But it is the local landscapes that command the attention, revealing Nattes' great skill and eye as one of the great topographical artists of the day and a man who evidently loved the rolling hills of Sussex.
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