Guest blog by Liz Winnicott and Adrian Biddell
Chiswick Auctions popular monthly Interiors, Homes & Antiques sale features collections from two fascinating local Chiswick residents this June. The first collection, from the late Peggy Copper’s Victorian House on Harvard Road, affectionately known as ‘the Museum’ to friends and family, looks rather like an authentic ‘cabinet of curiosities’ and embodies the artistic concept of ‘assemblage art’.
The second collection features five large abstract works and two figural compositions from the late Jeff Hoare, who lived and kept a studio on Strand-on-the-Green for some sixty years.
Liz Winnicott, Executive Director and Head of Interiors, Homes & Antiques, discusses the fascinating life of Peggy Cooper and her collecting habits. Adrian Biddell, Head of Paintings & Fine Art, poses the question: Was Jeff Hoare the ultimate watercolourist?
Peggy Cooper’s Dolls and other curiosities
Peggy, was born and raised in Yorkshire was an art student from City of Leeds Art College in 1950s. She had a keen eye for display and was an early proponent of an artistic concept known as ‘assemblage art’, using found and repurposed materials for model making and three-dimensional artistic displays which she went on to develop into a thriving business on her stall on the Portabello Road from the 1960s.
Peggy came to London in the late 1950s with her then husband, Alan Cooper, ‘Coops’, lead member of the famous jazz band The Temprance Seven. ‘Coops’, also a former art student, was a flamboyant type who loved the Edwardian period and usually dressed in tailcoats of the era, a passion he shared with his silver haired art teacher wife Peggy. Although their marriage didn’t last, Peggy’s verve for living a life untouched by modernity continued.
She moved into a gorgeous Victorian three-story house in Harvard Road, Chiswick and filled it with period furniture and furnishings. Every inch of the home, affectionately known to her friends and family as ‘The Museum’ is a testimony to Peggy’s passion and artistic talent.
Stepping into the hallway, you are greeted with lines of wall mounted glazed cabinets filled with taxidermy birds, framed advertising memorabilia and pictures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, giving an immediate sense of the Victorian era.
In the numerous rooms, every shelf, mantlepiece and surface is meticulously adorned with wonderful displays of miniature dolls house furniture, Victorian crested ware ceramics, hand-made scratch-built dioramas, and cabinets full of dolls or tin plate toys. There are shelves teaming with decalcomania bottles of every size, novelty shaped biscuit tins and miniature sewing machines all cleverly arranged to catch the eye. Even the kitchen is carefully assembled, with white painted shelves laden with tins of every shape and size, jelly moulds and kitchenalia, and of course, a doll seated in a highchair positioned in the corner for company!
Peggy’s home is a testimony to both her avant-garde craft form and her passion for juvenilia and objects. The collection is eclectic and, in some instances, rather macabre, but through her use assemblage art and artistic creativity, it somehow transitions from the more sombre Victorian era into a modern day ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, full of intrigue and fun.
Jeff Hoare – the ultimate watercolourist?
Was Jeff Hoare the ultimate watercolourist? The self-acclaimed ‘original sea painter’, for more than fifty years he perfected the art of immersing his painted canvases in the sea, using the draw of the tide, the drag of sand and shingle, and flotsam and jetsam on the water’s surface to create sumptuous abstract compositions that explode with intense colour harmonies.
Describing his highly innovative working methods, The Times commented: ‘If you were walking at dawn or dusk along the Folkstone shingle in Kent you might have come across Jeff Hoare. In rain or shine, the larger-than-life artist would be pouring brightly coloured acrylics across a vast canvas that he manipulated in and out of the sea so the paintings were shaped by the ebb and flow of seawater.’ (The Times, 7th December 2019). Of his technique Hoare himself noted: ‘…the end result is abstract and vibrant, with subtleties of change caused by the melding of waves and colours which reflect the sea itself.’
Hoare’s appreciation for the power of the sea stemmed from his years in the navy during the Second World War. Thereafter he studied painting under Ceri Richards and Robert Medley, and attended the Royal College of Art with Julian Trevelyan. But it was the time he spent in the USA in the late 1960s that proved transformative. While teaching at the universities of Illinois and Arizona he was exposed to the freedom and boldness that characterised American post-War art. The experience liberated his approach to colour, and his use of much larger canvases on which to fuse his instinct for the colour spectrum with his love of nature.
Back in the UK, he began using the sea to manipulate the form and palette of his paintings at Lancing Beach in the late 1960s, and thereafter deployed the technique frequently when by the coast: in Kent as already noted, in the Western Isles off Scotland and in Norfolk by Burnham Overy Staithe; in the Atlantic off the west coast of Africa, off Massachusetts and in the US Virgin Islands; in the Bay of Bengal, in the Indian ocean off Goa (lot 482), and on Sardinia in the Mediterranean, at Agincourt sound.
Hoare’s charismatic approach to both life and art meant he was much sought after in the classroom. From the late 1950s onwards he taught successively at Brighton College of Art, Central School of Art & Design, Camberwell, Cambridge and Morley College, and was in demand as a visiting professor both at home and abroad. His expansive painterly style lent itself to large scale commissions, including in Shell-Mex House on the Strand, London, the University of Lancaster, and Berman and Kahlmbach, New York, as well as set decorations for the Royal Opera House. He also enjoyed many solo exhibitions: at the Piccadilly Gallery and the Marjorie Parr Gallery, London; Maddison Gallery and the New Bertha Schaeffer Gallery, New York and Galleri Birgerjarl, Stockholm.
Works from both collections will feature in Chiswick Auctions Interiors, Homes & Antiques sale taking place on Thursday 17 June at 10.00am.
Contact Executive Director and Head of Interiors, Homes & Antiques, Liz Winnicott for more information.
Support The Chiswick Calendar
The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.
We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.
To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.