Glasgow Musuems Secures John Knox's Painting 'Glasgow Fair' for the City
Glasgow Museums has secured Glasgow Fair, a long-lost oil painting by Paisley-born artist John
Knox (1776/8-1845), for the city. The
ambitious art work portrays the Glasgow Fair on Glasgow Green around
1819-1822. The purchase was made with
the generous support of the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund,
Trustees of the Hamilton Bequest and Friends of Glasgow Museums. The painting will go on show at Kelvingrove Art
Gallery and Museum, Glasgow at the beginning of February.
Fair is certain to delight visitors to Glasgow Museums as
it tells Glasgow’s
story. The extraordinarily detailed
painting depicts a great Glasgow landmark, a
event and the crowds of Glaswegians that attended it. The colourful, lively piece is full of
humour. It illustrates the renowned event,
held annually on Glasgow’s
oldest common, in the early years of the city’s expansion when trade, commerce,
art and enterprise were flourishing.
The painting’s incredible detail and social commentary
is likely to appeal to a broad audience, with viewers able to relate to many of
the aspects Knox portrays. It is a very
grand landscape, complex in composition and astounding in the number of people
and cross-section of society conveyed. There
are the booths, sideshows and rides, together with over a thousand figures,
bringing together rich and poor, the privileged, soldiers, street vendors and
Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor Archie Graham, said: “John Knox’s Glasgow
Fair is a painting that belongs to Glasgow
and we are delighted to welcome it home to the city. The visually striking work has great
relevance for the people of Glasgow
as it was painted by a local artist, who lived in the city for most of his
life. And it shows Glaswegians enjoying
themselves at the Glasgow Fair, in the city’s oldest park. It also helps us understand the historical
importance of a holiday many of us still enjoy every July.
“I’ve no doubt it will be an immediate draw for our visitors. They can learn lots more about the painting
and the artist through a programme of events and activities that will accompany
its display at Kelvingrove.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund’s Manager for Scotland,
Colin McLean, said, “This painting is striking to look at and provides an important
window into the social heritage of Glasgow.
We are delighted to be able to provide our support for its acquisition and are
sure that, given its new accessibility in Kelvingrove, it will be a source of
great discovery and delight for people of all ages.
The painting was thought to be missing for over 100 years, then in 2013
at Sotheby’s in London it was sold as by the
Irish artist William Turner de Lond, depicting a fair in Aberdeen. Subsequently it was recognised as the
long-lost Knox with its landmark Nelson
Monument at Glasgow Green
in the background.
Knox sense of humour is evident in the incident and detail of the painting;
he wanted his viewers to be entertained as they recognised characters in the
scene. These include soldiers from different
regimental groups, traders, men gathered around a cock fight and a pickpocket. A woman can be seen trying to drag her drunk
husband from a seller of alcohol. There
are twins in the foreground in matching clothes. In the background there are
signs for ‘Mr Taylor's Olympic Circus’, which advertised slack wire, tight rope
dancing, theatrical and horsemanship displays, and 'Wombwell's Grand Collection
of Beasts', the largest travelling menagerie in Britain. There is also an
anti-slavery booth, theatrical performances, freak shows and dancing.
The acquisition is supported by the Showman’s Guild of Great
Britain. They recognise the importance
of the painting in demonstrating the contribution of the history and heritage
of travelling Showpeople to the development of the city.
The colour and detail make the painting easily accessible to the large
family audience that visits Kelvingrove
and Museum. The more weighty subjects
covered, such as slavery, poverty and freak shows will provide a focus for
educational visits. While the appeal of
the painting will extend out to those with an interest in textiles, the military,
local history and Scottish art.
The painting will go on show at Kelvingrove
and Museum, Glasgow
at the beginning of February. The display
will be complimented by a programme of events and activities, including
storytelling, creative writing, multi-sensory workshops, schools visits,
specialist talks and family weekends.
For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com