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 artists 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 Englands 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; Grey 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 days 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.