Arthur Spooner trained at the Nottingham School of Art, where he also taught for many years. A native of the city, he remained there throughout his life, relishing the depiction of local scenes and people. He was a founding member of the Nottingham Atelier in 1897, later affiliated to the Nottingham Society of Artists, of which he was President from 1946-62. Contemporaries in the society included Harold and Dame Laura Knight, and after Spooner's death, Edward Seago became president.
The Nottingham Atelier was established specifically for drawing and painting from the nude, requiring of its artists, 'an ardent desire to work for self-improvement in the knowledge of the human form ...' (Express and Journal, October 18, 1897, quoted by M. Macmillan, For the very Joy of Art, Nottingham, p. 5). The Society of Artists was not much older, having been formed in 1880. The Industrial Revolution had seen the city rapidly grow from a small town to a lively trade centre, new wealth encouraging a cultural life that it previously lacked. In 1878, Nottingham Castle was converted into a museum and art gallery, and it was at this venue that Spooner would exhibit much of his work.
The present work illustrates Nottingham Old Market during a public festival. The Exchange building, built in 1724, can be seen with its distinctive clock in the distance and dominating the canvas of Nottingham Old Market, (see lot 45). Spooner's paintings were perhaps among the last images of this classical structure, as it was demolished by the city council in 1926. Similarly, the Nottingham Goose Fair, which had been held in the Old Market as a Michaelmas festivity from as early as 1284, was relocated in 1928. Spooner's pictures offer an interpretation of local tradition on the cusp of modernity and change.
The Goose Fair, Nottingham captures the spontaneity and movement of a crowd in celebration, accentuated by Spooner's fluid handling of the paint. Billows of steam rise from mechanically run fair-ground rides in contrast to the more traditional carousel and dancing bears. To the left a policeman can be seen in new post-war uniform, hat comically juxtaposed with brightly coloured balloons. His presence hints at a political interpretation of the work, of crowd control and the rabble, but ultimately Spooner's rendition of the Goose Fair is ambiguously subtle, a social and artistic commentary on Nottingham in the 1920s.
Spooner's painting of The Nottingham Boat Club, 1894, which was commissioned to commemorate the foundation of the club and the start of Sunday rowing, sold for the world record price of £91,800 (Nottingham Boat Club; Christie's, London, 6 March 1986, lot 26).