A Flock of Sparrows – celebrating the art of Dr Geoffrey Sparrow
13 Dec 2019
A true Edwardian, Dr Geoffrey Sparrow came to Horsham 100 years ago after serving with distinction in the First World War. For the next fifty years, he portrayed the countryside and town, illustrating the scenes of everyday life with wit and charm, revealing a master of the caricature, be it man or beast.
Now marking fifty years since his death, Horsham Museum and Art Gallery is hosting a “Flock of Sparrows”, a major retrospective of a comic genius. A doctor who could write “Harley Street is an address not a medical qualification”, illustrate the chaos of 1950s West Street with echoes of Hogarth and Rowlandson, the horse out-foxing the rider and be awarded the Military Cross in both World War I and World War II, whilst serving the community, is worthy of celebration. This exhibition focuses on his artistic life.
Dr Geoffrey Sparrow was born on13th July 1887 without any public ceremony or celebration. He grew up in a Devonshire home surrounded by sporting books, prints and illustrations. He went into medicine as it was one of the professions, which in those days, was counted as just about acceptable next to army, law or the church. (All of the latter he had strong opinions about).
After studying medicine at Cambridge and Barts, he served as a doctor in the Great War with distinction. An account of his experiences was published in a book he co-wrote -‘On Four Fronts with the Royal Naval Division’. The book is noted not only for its accuracy and descriptive accounts of warfare, but also for his illustrations. In 1919 he moved to Horsham where he joined a local medical practice.
Dr Sparrow lived for three things – hunting, art and medicine. It was not the ‘kill’ but the camaraderie of the hunt that he enjoyed, which so obviously comes out in the pictures on display. Some people today might suggest these pictures glorify hunting. What they glorify is not the actual killing of animals but the horse, hound and sportsman working together within the Sussex landscape. His works portray the foibles and humour that are generated when groups of people get together, be they councillors, huntsmen etc. His humour is in a long tradition of British artistic caricaturists e.g. Dr Syntax Tours by Rowlandson and John Leech.
Drawn from the Museum’s collections, built up over the last 30 years, the exhibition has been supplemented by loans from members of the public who also enjoy his creativity, be it in watercolour, pencil, or burin as he transformed his rapid sketch into an engraving, or later an etching.
A Flock of Sparrows is the culmination of Horsham Museum and Art Gallery’s contribution to Horsham District’s Year of Culture. Over the year, the Museum has celebrated the artistic creativity and heritage of the District and this exhibition blends the two elements together, to portray a culture out of which we still see echoes today, but is changing as new artists explore the culture with fresh eyes.
The Flock will be nesting at the Museum on 21st December, and flying away on 7th March 2020. Horsham Museum is open 10-5pm Monday-Saturday, excluding public holidays. Free admission.