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Naive & Folk Art

The work of the 19th century journeyman artist, despite lacking a formal artistic training nonetheless fulfilled a growing demand for capturing the characteristics of prize-winning livestock which were bred to excess to look as hugely over-sized as their portraits depict them.

The artist Thomas Bewick (1753 - 1823) comments:


"Many of the animals were during this rage for fat cattle, fed up to as great a weight and bulk as it was possible for feeding to make them; but this was not enough; they were to be figured monstrously fat before the owners of them could be pleased. Painters were found who were quite subservient to this guidance, and nothing else would satisfy."

Agricultural shows began to multiply at the beginning of the 19th century and beast and owner would travel considerable distances to compete. A large, annual, sheep fair, supported by the Wiltshire Agricultural Society, was held in Wiley, Wiltshire, on 4th October of 1839 and may be the fair to which the Three Sheep painting refers in its inscription. Similarly, the English Agricultural Society was formed in 1838 and was given its royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1840 and held its Royal Show once a year in various venues throughout the country until it became established at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, in 1963.

Two prize winning rams painted within a landscape on the Cotswold Hills by J. Miles Northleach 1833. Oil painting on canvas. SOLD
The journeyman painter also captured naive likenesses of country folk, perhaps as wedding portraits, and of their children and domestic animals as well as rural landscapes. Many are unsigned but have become collectable due to their quirky nature and rustic charm.
Oil painting on canvas, portrait of an Irish red setter in a wooded landscape. Irish, circa 1810-1830. Known in gaelic as the Modder Rhu or Red Dog, this dog first appeared in Ireland in the early 19th century.
Also with an Irish provenance, this primitive Landscape oil painting on canvas depicts a village winter scene, the trees and hedgerows covered in frost, the duck pond partially frozen; ducks, figures and a mule pulling a jaunting cart. Believed to be near Limerick in Southern Eire. Signed: E.A. Fox. Irish, circa 1890 - 1910
Prized and Primitive Paintings
One of these journeyman artists was John Miles of Northleach, Gloucestershire (1781 - c1850) who became renowned for his paintings of prize sheep and farm animals.
Above: Thomas Lloyd's three prize-winning sheep in a landscape, painted by John Miles of Northleach, 1839. Oil on canvas. The picture is inscribed 'A sweepstake of one sovereign each, 3 subscribers and three sovereigns added by the society for the best pen of 3 yearling weathers bred by Mr T. Lloyd Upper Priddleton. The Stakes were open to all England Oct 4th 1839. Painted by J. Miles of Northleach.' Upper Priddleton is between Leominster and Bromyard, Herefordshire.
Another is 'Old Tom' by J Miles Northleach 1834. According to anecdotal stories passed down through the generations, Old Tom was the prized hunter of a Henry Charles, farmer and maltster, from Summer Hill Farm, Naunton, Gloucestershire. Whilst galloping at speed across the Cotswold countryside, Old Tom stumbled into a deep hollow and, without unseating his rider, managed to clamber to safety. Out of pride and respect for his fine horse, Henry commissioned Miles to record Old Tom for posterity.
'Adam Naming the Animals'. John Miles' most ambitious works were a number of large canvases depicting the same biblical scene, that of 'Adam Naming the Animals in the Garden of Eden', one of which was sold from our gallery in the past and another was recently sold as part of the Seeger Collection by Sotheby's. SOLD
Pair of oil paintings on canvas. A yeoman farmer and his wife. Unsigned, English circa 1760 - 1800
Oil painting on canvas, portrait of a young girl with ringlets, wearing a blue ribboned and tiered dress and straw hat and holding a posy. Indistinctly signed and dated 1850. Oil painting on canvas, portrait of a girl with coral necklace and holding a lap dog. English circa 1820- 1840
Pair of Rural Landscapes, oil paintings on canvas, each depicting cottages in a landscape. Signed R. Lyons, English, circa 1860 - 1890
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