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    William Bartlett: Returning from the Fair. UPDATE: THIS MADE £35,250

    In the 19th century, life for tenanted farmers on the islands off the west coast of Ireland was tough. Their small holdings were barely sufficient to support livestock, and they faced the additional challenge of transporting back home the animals they had bought at fairs on the mainland. Since their boats were too small to accommodate the cattle, the farmers and their wives had no option but to tow the beasts across the treacherous sounds. The drama of this perilous journey is depicted in William Bartlett’s Returning from the Fair at Bonhams 19th Century Paintings sale in London on  March 30. It is estimated at £20,000-30,000.

    William Bartlett (1858 -1932) was only 20 when in 1878 he first became captivated by the west of Ireland during a summer visit made with the American painter, Howard Helmick. It was not until 1886, however, after many years of artistic training – mostly in Paris where he absorbed the innovative naturalism of Jules Bastien-Lepage – that he returned to the area. The Connemara light and the hardships experienced by the people inspired some of Bartlett most powerful works and proved a life-long inspiration. In a note on Returning from the Fair, painted in 1888, he wrote, ‘To the periodical Markets, held on the mainland, the inhabitants of the outlying islands are often obliged (owing to the smallness of the boats) to tow their cattle after them.’

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