Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959)
The Fair inscribed on an old label attached to the reverse 'A.J. Munnings/Lamorna.Penzance/The Fair' oil on canvas 50.8 x 61cm (20 x 24in).
PROVENANCE: M Douglas Anderson Esq., Ashborne, Milliken Park; bought from the artist for £35 Thence by family descent Private collection, UK
EXHIBITED: Royal Scottish Academy, 1916, no. 344, lent by M Douglas Anderson Esq.
Rural horse fairs in Great Britain and Ireland have been the mainstay of the trade in horses for centuries. They usually took place once or twice every week in market towns all over the country and hundreds of horses were inspected and purchased for agriculture, transport, sport and leisure. Fairs were simply an inexorable part of country life.
As the son of one of the largest millers in the Waveney valley, Munnings would have been familar with horse fairs from an early age. The hustle and bustle, excitement and myriad colours proved to be a lasting inspiration as he returned to the theme numerous times.
There are two other known oils showing a rearing horse at an Irish fair, the earliest example (see 1902, Mastery of Munnings, exhibition catalogue page 15) shows an unruly horse refusing to move forward, a common enough sight at a rural fair such as this. Indeed the subject matter appealed to the artist to such an extent that he chose to present The Kilkenny Horse Fair as his diploma work following his election to the Royal Academy in 1925.
Munnings chooses to paint a horse who is clearly not cooperating with the handlers. As the horse rears and twists, dust and dirt swirl around obscuring the onlookers in the distance. Many of the characters appear relaxed suggesting that the scene has been playing out for some time. This calm is in stark contrast to the pose of the bald man to the left who is clearly prepared for anything as the drama unfolds.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos for her assistance in cataloguing this lot. The painting will appear in her forthcoming catalogue raisonne of Sir Alfred Munnings.