Dr Geoffrey Sparrow arrived in Horsham 100 years ago, setting up in practice. Along with his medical skill he brought great artistic talent and flair for capturing life as lived in the District in the 1930-60s. His genius was capturing in a few strokes, on the back of napkins, envelopes and the more formal painting, the humour of life. He follows in the tradition of Rowlandson, but without the cutting edge.
Dr Geoffrey Sparrow was a well liked and respected doctor in the Horsham area and a devoted huntsman - in his autobiography Foxes and Physic he states “in such an atmosphere of red coats, horses, hounds, terriers and old sporting prints on the wall I became thoroughly soaked in the tradition of fox hunting and have always held old Jorrocks’ opinion that all time not spent in hunting is wasted”; he was also a talented caricaturist.
Sparrow was born in Devon in 1887. He studied medicine at Cambridge and St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He said that going into medicine was “something had to be chosen…I was offered the law, medicine or the church: didn’t like an uncle who was a solicitor, so that was out; our parson was rather stout and greasy and preached long and dull sermons, and away with that, so there remained medicine.” Sparrow served with distinction as a Surgeon Lieutenant in the First World War. He was awarded the Military Cross along with a number of other medals; although he wrote about his military experiences, he never gave the reason why he was awarded the MC. After the Great War, he moved to Horsham and at the age of 53, served again in the Second World War in both Europe and Africa.
In the post war years Dr Sparrow was a prolific sketcher, caricaturist, print maker and watercolour artist, his subjects largely involved hunting scenes. His fame as an artist spread, and though people knew of his medical background, few knew about his war record and achievements. The Imperial War Museum, London now has his First World War diaries in their collections illustrated by Sparrow with comic sketches. Dr Sparrow died in 1969.