Burra uplifts the Pallant

Edward Burra is far more impressive in the flesh than in reproduction. Waldemar Januszczak got almost everything about him right, I think, in the Sunday Times, and I add only this …

I was a little uncertain that I’d enjoy the Burra show in Chichester. I am not good at surrealism, for a start; nor amazingly fond of the timid walks on the wild side made by self-conscious artists. I had hardly considered the Sussex landscape works.

The Pallant show knocks seven bells out of such wary complacency. The several rooms are filled with wonders, and each is needed to house the sheer range of works in which on the one hand one marvels at a person as good at cafes as moorlands and on the other at Burra’s consistency in eye. Nothing is without his characteristic taste for the bizarre; and nothing, either, without a strong, representational honesty. There’s always a great seriousness, too: his grotesques are more Francis Bacon than Beryl Cook.

I beg doubters to go.   Why not make it a thorough Sussex pilgrimage? The train-ride from Victoria to Chichester is one of the country’s best. It gives one (around Petworth) a glimpse of the landscape which made the county ideal  for Burra and Eric Ravillious alike. To pass the time, one could do far worse than read R C Sherriff’s A Fortnight in September (about south Londoners on holiday in Bognor).  After the Pallant, the Nag’s Head carvery is a five minute walk, if that, and a real treat (beef served in a lovely room with marvellous garden photographs which might have come from Country Life in the 1970s).


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Publication date

06 November 2011


Mind & body; On art