The first time Munnings went to a large country fair was the day that he received his first letter of acceptance to submit a painting to the Royal Academy summer exhibition. To celebrate the good news he went to Bungay races with its accompanying fair. He remarks, 'This was a plunge into the most vividly coloured phase of life I had so far seen. I had known horse sales in Norwich, local races and regattas; but what were they compared to this vast fair and meeting combined on Bungay Common? There were roundabouts, shooting galleries, swinging boats and coconut shies; large eating- and drinking-tents, flags flying, and thousands of oranges blazing on stalls in the sun' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 65).
In The Fairground Munnings captures the whirling merry-go-round with thickly applied oils, the three receding conical roofs providing a satisfying pattern. The figures in the middle foreground are blurred almost into indistinction creating the hustle and bustle of the main activity, whilst the viewpoint is isolated as though the artist has stood back to remain at a distance.
A similar view, also called The Fairground (fig. 1), and painted in 1912, (Private Collection) depicts gypsies and ponies by their caravan, again showing a quiet, contemplative moment away from the bustle.
We are grateful to the Curatorial staff at The Munnings Art Museum for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.