“Marvellously dotty” was how Peyton Skipwith of The Fine Art Society chose to describe this 14 by 12in (36 x 30cm) oil on panel by Rex Whistler (1905-1944). Entitled Miss Muffet, the panel depicts the moment when, sat upon her tuffet eating her curds and wey, a spider sits down beside the well-known nursery rhyme character.
In order to register Miss Muffet’s shock at her arachnid visitor, Whistler fitted the panel with a large cord which when pulled opens her eyes wide in surprise.
Whistler was an artist renowned for his whimsical wit. Together with his brother Lawrence he produced the book OHO!, a collection of upside down portraits, and he was also widely regarded as a talented theatre and set designer, illustrator and mural painter. From 1926-1927 he painted the decorations for the Tate Gallery restaurant.
Unlike his contemporary Eric Ravilious (1903-1942), Rex Whistler was not an official war artist, but both men were lost to the brutalities of the Second World War – Ravilious went missing presumed dead whilst on an air-sea rescue mission in Iceland in 1942 and Whistler, a commander in the Welsh Guards Armoured Division, was killed in action at Demouville, seven miles east of Caen, on July 18, 1944.
The tragic history shared by the two men explains the decision of The Fine Art Society to hang Miss Muffet alongside the selling exhibition Eric Ravilious in Context. With a price tag of £10,000, Miss Muffet will be on show from October 22-November 15 at 148 Bond Street.
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