The hustle and bustle of a rural horse fair, captured by Lamorna group artist Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) in The Fair, is one of the highlights in the 19th Century Paintings sale at Bonhams in London on January 22.
The Fair 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, including work by Laura Knight, S.J Lamorna Birch and Stanhope Forbes.
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 took her own life in 1914 as shadow of the Great War fell upon the country.