The painting ‘Glasgow Fair’ (1832) by the Scottish artist John Knox, will finally return to Glasgow after over a century of doubt as to its where-abouts. The work of art, which Paisley-born Knox created in 1832, had been held in a private collection in the United States for several decades before being wrongly attributed to an Irish artist.
The Glasgow Museums service led a fundraising bid to buy the work of art, backed by the likes of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Showman’s Guild of Great Britain. Museums chiefs said the work portrayed “a great Glasgow landmark, which is a famous Glasgow event and the crowds of Glaswegians that attended it” around 1819-22, a time when trade, commerce, art and enterprise were all flourishing in the city.
The painting, was put on display as part of the vast Glasgow International Exhibition which was staged at Kelvingrove Park in 1901, but was sold on by the artist’s family shortly afterwards, with all trace of the work being lost until 2013 where It came up for sale at auction in London, where it was said by Sotheby’s to be the work of Irish artist William Turner De Lond.
The Irish artist was known to have worked throughout Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, and visited Edinburgh in 1824 to record George IV’s visit to the capital. The oil painting, which was wrongly assumed to depict Duthie Park in Aberdeen, was subsequently bought by Edinburgh art dealer Patrick Bourne, who worked with a surviving relative of Knox Michael Stewart, to trace the provenance of the work, which he described as a “remarkable tour-de-force.”
Archie Graham, chair of Glasgow Life, which runs the museums service, told The Scotsman: “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.”
Graham concluded: “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.”
Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, added: “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.”