THE DARK HORSE: WORK BY CELEBRATED SPORTING ARTIST INVOLVED IN TRAGIC LOVE TRIANGLE TO SELL AT BONHAMS

22 Jan 2014, 19th Century European, Victorian and British Impressionist Art

Equine painting purchased for £35 is offered for £150,000-£250,000 a century later

The hustle and bustle of a rural horse fair is captured by Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) in The Fair, one of the highlights in the 19th Century Paintings sale at Bonhams, New Bond Street on 22nd January.

The oil painting was purchased direct from the artist pre-1916 for the sum of £35 and has been passed down within the family for a century. Today the work is offered with estimates of £150,000-£250,000.

A bay horse rears above the brown of the earth and the crowd, silhouetted against a white sky and kicking the dust into swirls. A white shirted man strains to hold the animal down as the crowd watches on. The picture captures a typical scene at a countryside horse fair.

Alfred Munnings was a member of the Lamorna Group, a bohemian artist's colony which had sprung up near the coastal village of Lamorna. Many of the Lamorna Group artists feature in the upcoming sale at Bonhams – Laura Knight, S.J Lamorna Birch and Stanhope Forbes.

But there is a darker side to Alfred Munnings' story. It was in Cornwall that Munnings met his first wife, fellow artist and horsewoman, Florence Carter Wood. The couple were married in January 1912 but Florence attempted suicide on their honeymoon.

A tangled love triangle involving Munnings, Florence Carter Wood and Munnings' friend, Gilbert Evans, was to end in tragedy. Florence succeeded in taking her own life in 1914 as the looming shadow of the Great War fell upon the country.

Horses were an integral part of the landscape in Edwardian Britain and Munnings, the son of a miller, would have grown up around horses. He was considered one of England's finest sporting painters.

In the years prior to the First World War, Munnings' depictions focussed on the idyllic British rural landscape at rest. Two further charming studies by Munnings are offered for sale; Gray mare and chestnut foal (£50,000-£70,000) and Calling them in (£40,000-£60,000) which depicts a horse and rider returning from a day's hunting.

Other highlights in the sale include a romantic moonlit scene by John Atkinson Grimshaw (British, 1836-1893) named At the park gate which is valued at £150,000-£200,000. Grimshaw is well-known for his night-scene paintings, instilled with the mood of twilight, approaching night or lingering winter dawn.

A dream at Dawn takes us through to morning with the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896). A young girl in a white night dress stands at her balcony, dreamily gazing at the sky with head in hand as she waits for morning. The work was painted when Millais was at the height of his fame and is valued at £40,000-£60,000.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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