Paintings: All the Fun of the Fair

Happy March, everyone!  I hope my March reading is substantially more than my February reading…

I enjoyed and valued your responses to my post On Not Knowing Art last week, and stored away your suggestions happily.  I also fell more and more in love with two of the paintings I’d chosen – the Francis Cadell, which many of you seemed to know, and Korhinta (1931) by Vilmos Aba-Novak, which none of you did – or, if you did, you kept quiet!  Here it is again…

(image source)

I can’t stop looking at it. The colours, the energy, the clever presentation of figures… and the funfair.  I’ve realised that I am fascinated by the ways in which funfairs are depicted. I don’t know exactly what it is about them that appeals – again, the colours, the energy, and the sense of the insane and unusual brought into close connection with the everyday – but I can’t get enough.  So I thought I’d explore some more depictions of funfairs in art. The only ones I knew before were the Stanley Spencer, who is one of my favourite artists, and the Mark Gertler.  I would include literary examples, but I can’t think of any (can you?) – only the odd circus or two. (Click on the links to take you to image sources.)

Helter Skelter (1937) by Stanley Spencer

The Fairground, Sydney (1944) by Herbert Badham

The Fairground (1930s) by L.S. Lowry

Nottingham Goose Fair (c.1910) by Noel Denholm Davis
photograph for sale on Etsy

Merry-Go-Round (1916) by Mark Gertler

Well, that’ll do for now, on my hunt through Google Images… let me know if you think of any artistic or literary fairgrounds and funfairs!

17 thoughts on “Paintings: All the Fun of the Fair

  • March 1, 2013 at 8:05 am
    Permalink

    These are brilliant Simon. I love carousels/ funfairs too. My mind is blank as to any literary fairgrounds which seems strange – there must be plenty. I do think of the poem which ends "losses on the roundabouts means profits on the swings" which is a huge favourite of mine (Swings and Roundabouts by Patrick R Chalmers) and also the scene in The Sting. Of course I absolutely loved The Circus of Adventure when young -EB to the rescue! Fairgrounds are often fairly exotic even menacing aren't they in stories? Colourful in these lovely pictures though.

    Reply
    • March 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Donna!
      I didn't realise the swings/roundabouts was from a poem – did the poem come first?

      In Blyton, a circus always came with a wild girl called Carlotta…

      Reply
    • March 2, 2013 at 5:54 am
      Permalink

      I'm not sure Simon, but I've always thought it did: can't be a very ancient maxim anyway! Definitely a Carlotta :) Donna

      Reply
  • March 1, 2013 at 8:24 am
    Permalink

    The fairground in literature – what springs to mind? William Brown of course! Oh, and possibly Agatha Christie – or were they TV mechanisms rather than in the books? Goodness, now I'm not even sure there were any in her books – maybe I have strayed into Midsomerland?

    Reply
    • March 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm
      Permalink

      I don't remember a fairground in AC, but that's not to say one wasn't there! The only one I can remember was in a Point Horror book…

      Reply
  • March 1, 2013 at 9:02 am
    Permalink

    All the action in Edmund Crispin's The Moving Toyshop culminates in a dramatic pursuit through the Botley fairground, which must have been in or near Oxford, if it isn't there still.

    Reply
    • March 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm
      Permalink

      Haha, thanks Harriet! I haven't been to a gallery since I posted, so I'm still just perusing Google, but one of these did come from BBC's Your Paintings.

      Reply
  • March 1, 2013 at 11:02 am
    Permalink

    Wonderful pictures. The book that comes to mind is The Night Circus – but yes, it's not a fun fair.

    Reply
    • March 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Charlie!
      I don't know why fairs make me more interested than circuses… curious.

      Reply
  • March 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm
    Permalink

    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is set in a circus and on a circus train – I enjoyed it a lot. Excellent pictures, but I find the Gertler one which I've seen a bit sinister!

    Reply
    • March 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm
      Permalink

      It is sinister, isn't it? But in a way that I love! The same sort of unnerving surreal element that's in Barbara Comyns' novels.

      Reply
  • March 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm
    Permalink

    Ah, Corgiville Fair by Tasha Tudor. My kids loved pouring over her illustrations. Also, Peter Spier's Circus – one of his many amazing children's books.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2013 at 2:07 am
    Permalink

    The Third Man, Strangers on a Train … although the movies had more impact than the books.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: