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Haydon was an enthusiastic Londoner. He wanted to catch the city’s fizz and energy in this picture, as well as the enduring traditions of ‘Old England’ such as the festivities of May Day. A crowd of mixed classes, ages and races mingles with a costumed procession and a Punch and Judy show in the Marylebone Road. Haydon thought of calling the picture simply ‘Life’. But he included an ironic comment on English philistinism: an Italian selling casts and statues but finding few buyers. Haydon, a history painter by preference, believed his own art was under-appreciated.

October 2013