Because the New English Art Club often document the world around them through plein air painting, their work offers a striking insight into the artists’ lives and communities. This year, the NEAC Annual Exhibition is replete with scenes of local markets, and Liberty Rowley, Mall Galleries’ Press Manager, is here to shine a light on some of the best.
Markets were an established and popular subject with artists from the 1880s onwards, offering practitioners the chance to depict architecture, local costume, portraiture, and still life. In the late Sixteenth Century, artists from the Netherlands concentrated on a seller’s wares or the seller themselves, creating portraits of interesting ‘rustics’.
Pieter Aertsen and Bruegel are exciting examples of this genre. Joachim Beuckelaer’s ‘The Four Elements’, which can be viewed at the National Gallery, constitutes four large market scenes, each of which represents one of the elements of earth, air, fire and water.
By the 1880s, market scenes had become a social political statement. Artists documented the market as a picturesque glimpse of a rapidly declining rural economy, or as a site of urban hustle and bustle. Fascination and fear of the ‘Orient’ was expressed through the inclusion of Eastern costumes and colours in these scenes.
Although such works project an image of the artist embedded in a shared environment, many were painted from the isolation of urban studios, using sketches or props brought back from trips abroad.
Visiting markets remains a popular holiday pastime, enabling tourists to immerse themselves in the culture of a new place. NEAC artist Tom Hoar presents a scene from Udaipur, the ‘City of Lakes’, in India. Tourism is a major part of this region’s economy, and the markets are a popular place to learn about local crafts and purchase souvenirs.
"This was painted on a very busy street in the afternoon, looking towards the basket weaver's market”, says the artist. “It was a battle to paint this, as the street children were swinging off my easel and sticking their fingers in my palette.”
Tokyo Fish Market 2 by Austin Cole RBA (Etching & aquatint (edition of 30) 34 x 36 cm £260 (£175 unframed))
Here we see Tsukiji Fish Market in central Tokyo, the biggest wholesale fish market in the world. Fish are delivered from 3am by boat and plane for the commercial auctions which begin at 5am. “The market was one of the sights recommended in my Tokyo guide, so l went there one morning after the main trading had finished”, says artist Austin Cole.
“As I walked through the market, traders were still rushing around completing their deals. I wasn’t able to find a quiet corner and draw, it was just too busy, but l took photographs which l used as the basis of my prints. The market appealed to me because it was a working place full of real characters, and as for smells, there was an overpowering smell of fish!”
Fishmonger by Saied Dai RP NEAC (Oil 81 x 97 cm £11,450)
A more formal composition in this year’s NEAC Annual Exhibition is Fishmonger by Saied Dai, who has broken down the highly stacked stall into a series of colours and forms, creating a moment of peace and in a typically chaotic shopping environment. "Working directly from life is merely a mode of operation - sometimes appropriate and often impossible”, says Dai. “Artists have to be flexible and adaptable to the requirements of the situation.”
“The problem is often not to do with how much information is gathered, but how selectively it is translated”, Dai continues. “Detail in itself does not necessarily give more information. The 'Fishmonger' is a case in point - it was totally out of the question to sit in front of the ever-changing situation and just paint. Therefore, a number of snapshots were taken and then studied for the possibility of creating an interesting image, in terms of design and composition.”
“The painting is a construct of multiple interests and viewpoints, incorporated into a design that hopefully encapsulates the scene in a meaningful and intriguing way. The subject has become a vehicle to explore compositional ideas - to make a transient situation into something memorable and timeless."
Pete ‘the street’ Brown is a celebrated plein air painter, whose work Early Morning, The Market, Hoi An depicts one of Vietnam’s most impressive markets, famous for possessing tailors who can create silk suits for a customer in under 24 hours.
Patrick Cullen’s street scene evidences Delhi’s reputation for busy streets, chaotic traffic, and colourful markets. Despite an increase in indoor shopping malls, the traditional bazaar remains popular with residents and visitors alike.
The Corn Exchange by Paul Handley NEAC (Oil 66 x 66 cm £2,200)
Paul Handley NEAC depicts the Corn Exchange, a building found in many UK towns, where merchants once traded corn. Corn Exchanges were commercial hubs, and their status is reflected in the grandness of their architecture. From the Twentieth Century, this trade became more centralised, and many of these buildings were repurposed.
“This Corn Exchange is in my hometown of Newark-on-Trent”, says Handley. “The architect was Henry Duesbury and it was built in 1848. I’ve wanted to paint it for as long as I can remember; I love the building very much and a tiny northern market town like Newark is very lucky to have a building so grand and flamboyantly Baroque. Not that it deserves it; it’s now derelict and has been left to dilapidate.”
“I paint my daily life: the people and the places that I love, and the places where I grew up, to which I feel a very strong attachment. There is great beauty in the commonplace, the ordinary and the overlooked, and I’m as moved by the tired and faded markings of a zebra crossing as I am a grand renaissance edifice against a brilliant summer sky. Everything is passing away and I wish it wouldn’t; painting helps me to feel that I can hold on to all that beauty for just a little while longer.”
The New English Art Club Annual Exhibition has some wonderful examples of market scenes, all of which are available to view at Mall Galleries from 15 - 23 June.
The exhibition can also be viewed online here.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the works from the exhibition, contact us at email@example.com or on 020 7930 6844.