The 19th Century Paintings sale made a total just shy of £2 million at Bonhams
yesterday (22nd January).
First place went to The Fair, a sporting painting by Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) which captures the hustle and bustle of a rural horse fair. The picture sold for £182,500.
It was purchased direct from the artist pre-1916 for the sum of £35 and has been passed down within the family for a century.
At the time this picture was painted, Munnings was a member of the Lamorna Group, a bohemian artists colony which had sprung up near the coastal village of Lamorna in Cornwall. The sale featured several works by other members of the group including Stanhope Forbes and Samuel John Lamorna Birch.
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.
A number of other paintings in the sale exceeded expectations. The mountain patrol by Alfred von Wierusz-Kowalski (Polish, 1849-1915) sold to a bidder in the room for £98,500 near doubling its pre-sale estimates.
More than one bidder fell in love with Quinterelle II, a nude study in watercolour by Sir William Russell Flint (British, 1880-1969) estimated at £15,000-£20,000, which was eventually secured by a bidder on the telephone for £76,900.
Dreams came true for the sellers of A dream at Dawn by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896) which made £55,000 against £15,000-£20,000 estimates. The work, painted when Millais was at the height of his fame, depicts a young girl in a white night dress standing on her balcony, dreamily gazing at the sky with head in hand as she waits for morning.