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Goose Fair, Old St Matthew's Church

Date made: c.1890

Artist: Hoepfner, Franz

Description: An almost Dickensian view of the Douglas market, with its stalls groaning under the weight of geese destined for the Christmas table and the warm red glow of oil lamps in the windows. The painting is a study of light and darkness played out in a series of smaller scenes.

The warm glow of the red light from the houses and the braziers (probably roasting chestnuts) in the market contrasts with the chill of the cold moonlight breaking through the dark ominous clouds and reflecting off the snow-covered roofs. Whilst the bottom half of the painting glows with a picturesque luminescence, the top half could be an illustration for a Gothic ghost story. Hoepfner has chosen an angle which makes the surrounding houses and church loom over the market place. He appears to have exaggerated the height of the buildings so that they tower somewhat forebodingly over the scene. The crowds in the marketplace appear as dark, anonymous figures, their faces only half-illuminated by the fires with only a handful of them having recognisable features.

Franz Hoepfner was well-known in the early 1890s for his large scale paintings of the Isle of Man, many of which provided the decoration for the tourist venues of Douglas, such as the Derby Castle. This view of Old St Matthew’s Church and market is therefore typical of the large dramatic canvases he produced.

Old St Matthew’s Church was built from 1708-1711 by Bishop Wilson. A century later, Johnson's Guide (1850) disparagingly described it as ‘an old and ungainly edifice’. It was demolished in 1895 to allow for the redevelopment of the open-air Douglas market. Today the site is occupied by the market hall and the British Legion Club.

Measurements: unframed artwork: 124 cm x 75 cm

Materials: Oil on canvas

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 2003-0024

Subject tags : #artgalleryplace


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