Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Dusty Old Fairground

In the 1930s UK advertisers would routinely associate tobacco products with great moments in our island’s imperial history. Deadly dull and boring images of the likes of Raleigh, Nelson and Shakespeare proliferated, so a little contemporary subject matter makes a welcome change. That said, this is at first sight a diluted and genteel vision of fairground life. The raffish air of menace that attracted the interest of many artists is hard to find. Instead we have a cheery throng of outwardly respectable paragons of the lower middle class exchanging breezily polite phrases on the merits of Player’s cigarettes. Closer examination reveals a few more interesting details such as the abundance of discarded refuse and a toddler in confrontation with a black cat. There appears to be a pickpocket at work in the crowd, a gentleman with a briefcase has been tripped by a kite flyer and on the far right there’s a boot to the backside for a hapless victim. The artist is A A White, a regular cartoonist in Punch magazine, a place where the sort of gentle subversion seen here was very much the order of the day.

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