richard green Ken Howard

Sir Alfred Munnings (Mendham 1878 - Dedham 1959)

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - Dunkery Beacon from Selworthy, Exmoor
    Sir Alfred Munnings Dunkery Beacon from Selworthy, Exmoor Signed
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 30 1/4 in
    50.8 x 76.8 cm
    Full details

    BS 224

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Dunkery Beacon from Selworthy, Exmoor

     

    Signed lower right: A.J. Munnings;

    inscribed on the stretcher: Dunkery from Selworthy

    Oil on canvas: 20 x 30 ¼ in / 50.8 x 76.8 cm

    Frame size: 26 ¼ x 36 ½ in / 66.7 x 92.7 cm

     

    Painted in the 1940s

     

    Provenance:

    Private collection, UK

     

     

    In the 1920s Alfred Munnings’s second wife, Violet, who was a superb equestrienne, bought a cottage, ‘Riverside’, at Withypool in Somerset. She hunted on Exmoor with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, enjoying more challenging terrain than the hunting in East Anglia. In 1940 Munnings’s home, Castle House at Dedham in Essex was requisitioned by the Army and he moved to Withypool, finding a curious freedom in the midst of conflict by painting pure landscape, unburdened by irksome commissions. Munnings wrote lyrically of Exmoor: ‘In the spring white blackthorn blossom, and later the hawthorn. With glistening stalks of dead bracken around, and young green fronds uncurling through ... bluebells a faint mist on the slope, and songs of blackbird and thrush in the air, I have sat in the shadow of an aged thorn in blossom, painting massed white blossoming trees below, casting their shadows on the hillside and their scent all around. Farther below still, the gleam of a small stream rippling over stones in the sun, its sweet, silvery music ascending, mingling with the blackbird’s song’[1].

     

    This work depicts a favourite motif which Munnings painted frequently before and during the Second World War, the view from Selworthy (on the northern side of Exmoor, about eight miles from Withypool) to Dunkery Beacon. The Beacon stands on Dunkery Hill, at 1700 feet the highest point on Exmoor. The open-ended composition gives a sense of the panoramic, unfettered landscape. So different from East Anglia, with its gentle hills, fields of wheat and flower-strewn water meadows, Munnings found a new source of inspiration that perhaps took him back to the wild countryside of his Cornish sojourn, before the First World War. He painted Dunkery in every time of day and type of weather, pitting his vision and technique against changeable Nature in the way that Monet caught every mood of his gardens at Giverny. A number of these Dunkery paintings can be seen at the Munnings Art Museum at Castle House.  

     

    In Dunkery Beacon from Selworthy, the rich agricultural terrain of the foreground, with a line of elms and other trees casting coloured shadows, gives way to the hazy, bare moorland, which rises to meet a horizon that glows with a faint line of apricot beneath a cloud-flecked blue sky. The painting is a poetic assemblage of gentle tonalities, with cool blues and greens predominating. The vigour and immediacy of Munnings’s technique is apparent in the rapidly-brushed shapes of the foreground trees and the textures added with a dragged, half-dry brush and highlights scratched with the wooden end of the brush. Munnings’s deep and delicate response to the natural world is fully apparent.

     

     

     


    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

     

    Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller.  He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There he was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.

     

    While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs.  He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists.  When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899.  He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

     

    The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings’s life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings’s prolific career, spanning over 60 years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when he was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.

     

     

    [1] Sir Alfred Munnings, The Finish, London 1952, p. 105.

     

     

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - Exmoor, from Lynmouth Road, Porlock
    Sir Alfred Munnings Exmoor, from Lynmouth Road, Porlock Signed
    Oil on board
    20 x 24 in
    50.8 x 61 cm
    Full details

    BS 223

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Exmoor from Lynmouth Road, Porlock

     

    Signed lower left: A.J. Munnings

    Oil on canvas: 20 x 24 in / 50.8 x 61 cm

    Frame size: 25 ¾ x 29 ½ in / 65.4 x 74.9 cm

     

    Provenance:

    Private collection, UK

     

     

    In the 1920s Alfred Munnings’s second wife, Violet, who was a superb equestrienne, bought a cottage, ‘Riverside’, at Withypool in Somerset. She hunted on Exmoor with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, enjoying more challenging terrain than the hunting in East Anglia. In 1940 Munnings’s main home, Castle House at Dedham in Essex, was requisitioned by the Army and he moved to Withypool, finding a curious peace in the midst of conflict by painting pure landscape, unburdened by irksome commissions. Munnings wrote lyrically of Exmoor: ‘In the spring white blackthorn blossom, and later the hawthorn. With glistening stalks of dead bracken around, and young green fronds uncurling through ... bluebells a faint mist on the slope, and songs of blackbird and thrush in the air, I have sat in the shadow of an aged thorn in blossom, painting massed white blossoming trees below, casting their shadows on the hillside and their scent all around’[1].

     

    As well as the hunting set and the sturdy shepherds whom he sometimes painted[2], Munnings encountered writers who were drawn to Exmoor’s wild, numinous landscape. The area had enticed writers since the Romantic era, most notably Wordsworth and Coleridge, who lived in Somerset in 1797-8, during the genesis of the Lyrical Ballads. Indeed Porlock, from which this Munnings view is taken, is notorious for the ‘person from Porlock’ who interrupted Coleridge’s opium-addled composition of Kubla Khan (1797). In Withypool during the War, Munnings became friendly with the naturalist, farmer and writer Henry Williamson, best known for Tarka the Otter (1927), who lived for many years at Georgeham in Devon. They shared the same romantic, deeply conservative love of the British countryside. In an article for The Adelphi magazine (1944), Williamson recalled how he and Munnings spent a day walking on Exmoor in June 1940: ‘My companion and host of this walk was a Suffolk man who had lived in the West Country for many years. He was the best of company; it was grand to hear him praise the colours of the valley sides, the lights of the sky, the folds of the hills and the horizon outlines, with the enthusiasm of youth. I suppose it is something from the moor itself, some virtue from the wildness of the earth. For the old, old earth is always young’.

     

    Porlock is about eight miles across the moor from Withypool. In Exmoor from Lynmouth Road, Porlock, Munnings has turned his back to the sea and looked across a foreground of yellow gorse to the treeless moor, softened by the faded purple of heather banks and criss-crossed by ancient trackways made by animals and men. The sense of plunging down into this vast panorama catches something of the headlong excitement of the Hunt. In the distance, violet hills rise up to a luminous horizon beneath a band of cloud which trails a fringe of showers. Munnings never tired of this landscape with its untamed, stripped-down power, the rippling musculature of the earth laid bare without distractions of trees, hedgerows, fields or human habitation.

     

     

     

     


    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

     

    Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller.  He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There he was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.

     

    While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs.  He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists.  When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899.  He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

     

    The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings’s life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings’s prolific career, spanning over 60 years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when he was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.

     

     

    [1] Sir Alfred Munnings, The Finish, London 1952, p.105.

     

     

    [2] See for example Bringing home the sheep, Withypool, Exmoor (The Munnings Art Museum, Dedham).

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - The Leaders
    Sir Alfred Munnings The Leaders Signed and dated 1911
    Watercolour
    15 3/4 x 21 3/4 in
    40 x 55.2 cm
    Full details

     

    BL 153

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    The leaders

     

    Signed and dated lower right: A.J. Munnings / 1911

    Watercolour: 15 ¾ x 21 ¾ in / 40 x 55.2 cm

    Frame size: 23 ½ x 30 in / 59.7 x 76.2 cm

     

    Provenance:

    Sotheby’s London, 13th March 1974, lot 59 Richard Green, London; by whom sold in 1974 to a private collector, USA

     

    Exhibited:

    London, Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, 1911, no.303 Brandywine Conservancy and River Museum, Alfred J. Munnings from Regional Collections, 7th June-1st September 2008 (as Leaders pulling the Queen’s carriage) Saratoga Springs, National Museum of Racing, The Mastery of Munnings, 8th July-4th September 2000, p.23, illus. in colour (wrongly dated 1909)

     

     

    Alfred Munnings mastered the difficult medium of watercolour during his lithographic apprenticeship with Page Bros in Norwich and employed it throughout the first half of his career, often working out his themes in parallel oils and watercolours. He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours in 1899, at just twenty-one, and exhibited there until 1934.

     

    Munnings was fascinated by grey horses and frequently makes them a focus of his paintings, as in the large horse fair oil The coming storm, 1910 (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney), where the greys’ coats are caught in a shaft of sunlight beneath a thundery sky. The visual grandeur of greys was bound up with Munnings’s childhood memories: ‘A distinct scene from my earliest days, which for some strange reason remains clear and more unclouded than others, is my Aunt Rosa’s wedding, with grey horses and white rosettes. I see them trotting up to Walsham Hall, the old farmhouse where my grandmother lived….They were, no doubt, quite ordinary greys, but let me cling to my dream of beauty’[1].

     

    In The leaders Munnings delights in the lilac and cream shadows on the horses’ flanks, the sensation of movement achieved by blurring the washes around the animals’ legs, and the vivid contrast with the postillion’s red coat. Around 1910-11 Munnings made a number of carriage scenes where the friezelike composition emphasises the speed, grace and vigour of the horses. In 1925 he was commissioned by Queen Mary to paint the Ascot Procession (RA 1926; Royal Collection) and was taken every morning to Windsor Castle where he made studies of the magnificent matched greys that pulled the Royal carriage. The small boy who had thrilled to his aunt’s wedding procession could not have asked for a better future.

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller. He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There he was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.

     

    While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs.  He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists.  When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899. He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

     

    The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings’s life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings’s prolific career, spanning over sixty years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when he was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.

     

     

     

    [1] Sir Alfred Munnings, An Artist’s Life, London 1950, p.16.  

     

     

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - Winter sunshine: huntsman by a covert
    Sir Alfred Munnings Winter sunshine: huntsman by a covert Signed
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 24 in
    50.8 x 61 cm
    Full details

     

     

    BE 346

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Winter sunshine: huntsman by a covert

     

    Signed lower left: A.J. Munnings

    Canvas: 20 x 24 in / 50.8 x 61 cm

    Framed Size: 28 ½ x 32 ¼ in / 72.4 x 81.9 cm

     

    Painted circa 1913

     

    Provenance:

    Ian MacNichol Gallery, Glasgow

    James Anderson, Motherwell, Lanarkshire

    Private collection, UK

     

    Exhibited:

    London, Royal Academy, Sir Alfred James Munnings Retrospective Exhibition, 1956, no.67

     

    To be included in the catalogue raisonné of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos

     

     

    Alfred Munnings began hunting with the Norwich Staghounds in the first decade of the twentieth century and hunting scenes provided inspiration throughout his career. He was particularly fond of the theme of a huntsman at the edge of a wood, revelling in the challenge of depicting en plein air complex contrasts of light and shade and the textures of trees, a horse’s coat and the clothes of the huntsman. Munnings’s grooms, such as George Curzon at Swainthorpe, usually provided the patient models for the huntsmen. In the first volume of his autobiography, An Artist’s Life (1950), Munnings described the delight of painting George: ‘Winter mornings and afternoons passed as, dressed in scarlet, he posed on a horse. At last I was seeing the colour of a scarlet coat in the sun, the sheen of a clipped horse, with the lighting on fences, tree-trunks, fields’ (p.195).

     

    This painting, probably made around 1913, is remarkable for the freedom and brilliance with which Munnings suggests the bold blue shadows of the forest floor, the lemon shafts of sunlight, and the myriad colours reflected in the hunter’s coat. A Hunting morning, dated 1913, in the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, Castle House, Dedham, shows a similar fascination

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    with huntsmen in a forest lit by wintry sunshine[1]. The museum also has two oil on board Studies of a wood which are very similar in handling to the present painting[2].

     


    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller. He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There he was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.

     

    While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs.  He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists.  When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899. He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

     

    The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings’s life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings’s prolific career, spanning over sixty years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when he was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.

     

    [1] Board 20 ½ x 26 ¼ in / 52.1 x 66.7 cm. See Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Essex, ed. Sonia Roe, London 2006, p.100, no.636, illus. in colour.

    [2] Recto and verso of a board 16 ½ x 21 in / 41.9 x 53.3 cm; ed. Sonia Roe, op. cit., p.159, no.344 and 344A, illus. in colour.

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - Portrait of Mrs Frederick Henry Prince (1860-1949) in the New England woods
    Sir Alfred Munnings Portrait of Mrs Frederick Henry Prince (1860-1949) in the New England woods Signed, lower right: A.J.Munnings
    Pencil, watercolour and gouache
    14 1/2 x 21 1/4 in
    36.8 x 54 cm
    Full details

    BS 140

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Portrait of Mrs Frederick Henry Prince (1860-1949) in the New England woods

     

    Signed lower right: A.J. Munnings

    Pencil, watercolour and gouache: 14 ½ x 21 ¼ in / 36.8 x 54 cm

    Frame size: 21 x 27 ½ in / 53.3 x 69.8 cm

     

    Painted circa 1924

     

    Provenance:

    Sir Patrick Dunn

    Richard Green, London, 1967

    Christie’s London, 19th July 1968, lot 30

    Ian McNicol, Glasgow

    Private collection, UK

     

    Exhibited:

    Glasgow, The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, 1927 (sold for £70)

     

     

    This watercolour of Mrs Prince shows Alfred Munnings’s wonderfully free and evocative watercolour technique, which here has parallels with the watercolours of John Singer Sargent. Munnings balances warm and cool tones, leaving the white paper bare to evoke Mrs Prince’s elegant white riding habit, modelling the figure with a few scribbles of lilac and blue shadow. The shimmering leaves and sunlight are described with rapid, wet washes, scratched in places with a knife or wooden brush handle to give more complex textures.

     

    Riders in woodland with dappled sunlight were favourite motifs of Munnings, for example in the oil Hunting morning, 1913 (The Munnings Art Museum, Dedham) and in his oil portrait of his first wife Florence in Cornwall, The morning ride, c.1912 (private collection). Mrs Prince and her magnificent horse are seen in profile. She is relaxed and calm, with an effortless, patrician air: not for nothing was Munnings the most sought-after equestrian portraitist of his era. 

     

    The watercolour was probably made in 1924, during Munnings’s only visit to America. Invited to be a judge of the International Exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Munnings was plunged into a round of high-society parties among the Prohibition-era East Coast élite, ‘gloriously mad days’ which also yielded a rich haul of subjects.

     

    Abigail, née Kinsley Norman, was the wife of Frederick Henry Prince (1859-1953). The Boston-born contemporary of Andrew W Mellon and JP Morgan, he was one of the men who forged America’s economic might in the first half of the twentieth century, as stockbroker, railway magnate, owner of stockyards and meat-packing businesses in Chicago. Friend of President Roosevelt and Joe Kennedy, he was the oldest member of the New York, Boston and Midwest Stock Exchanges when he died aged ninety-three in 1953. Munnings had met Prince, who was Master of the fashionable Pau Foxhounds, at a Hunt dinner in Pau in 1920. He encountered Prince again while sailing to New York on the Berengaria, for the Princes, on their way back from hunting in Leicestershire, ‘thought no more of crossing the Atlantic than we would of crossing a street’[1].

     

    Munnings was invited to stay at Princemere, the family’s estate at Wenham in Massachusetts, when his duties at the Carnegie Institute were over. Prince provided him with a specially-equipped studio and he painted a magnificent equestrian portrait of his host (with Richard Green in 2008; private collection) and another of Prince with his son Freddie. Munnings also made an oil portrait of Mrs Prince hunting with the Pau in a long, Victorian veil, which Freddie dubbed ‘Ma, crossin’ the Alps’[2].

     

    In his autobiography, The Second Burst (1951), Munnings described Mrs Prince as ‘an original woman, with a strange turn of mind’[3], who would arrive hours late for dinner in spectacular Worth gowns, ‘thirty yards round the hemmed flounce’[4]. (Mrs Prince’s collection of couture is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). He painted the Princes in Biarritz and Paris in 1932, noting once again Mrs Prince’s insouciant attitude to time, as she invariably arrived very late for sittings. ‘A more unperturbed woman I have never seen – there could be only one Mrs. Prince in the world’[5].

     

     

    Frederick Henry Prince (1859-1953)

     

    ‘Frederick Henry Prince is generally regarded as New England’s richest citizen and Boston’s crustiest celebrity’, wrote Time magazine (no friend to Prince) in 1933[6]. Prince was born on 24th November 1859, the son of Frederick O Prince (1818-1899), who was twice Democratic Mayor of Boston. He left Harvard in his sophomore year and gained a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1885; FH Prince & Co installed the first stockticker in Boston. In 1884 he married Abigail Kingsley Norman (1860-1949), daughter of a wealthy waterworks builder.

     

    Frederick Prince gained control of the Chicago Union Stock Yards in the era when more meat was processed in that city than anywhere else in the world. He bought into railways such as the Pere Marquette and Chicago Junction which transported livestock, thus safeguarding his supplies. Prince joked that although he ‘only owned four railroads, he controlled forty-six’, because his holdings connected the east and west coasts of America. In 1925 he helped Joseph P Kennedy to buy the Robertson-Cole/Film Book Offices, which evolved into RKO Pictures.

     

    In 1933 Prince bought heavily into the famous Chicago meatpacking firm of Armour & Co, playing the trump card in the longstanding rivalry between the firms of Prince and Armour. He survived the Depression with a fortune of $250 million and presented President Roosevelt with the Prince Plan to consolidate the nation’s railways, saving $740 million annually. The plan was never inaugurated, because of the political cost of making thousands of railway workers redundant.

     

    Prince had homes in Biarritz, Boston, Aiken, SC, a château near Pau, and the 994-acre Princemere estate in Pride’s Crossing, MA. In 1932 he bought the Marble Palace in Newport, Rhode Island from Mrs Oliver Belmont, the former Alva Vanderbilt, in Munnings’s words ‘because it will keep Mrs Prince amused for the next ten years in furnishing it….He says, having something to do like that keeps her young’[7].

     

    A fearless sportsman, who survived being knocked unconscious from his runaway, four-horse tally-ho in 1908[8], Prince played polo, hunted, and co-founded the International Tennis Club of Washington and the National Steeplechase Association. From 1932 to 1936 he owned the beautiful J-class America’s Cup contender Weetamoe, losing in the 1934 trials to Harold Stirling Vanderbilt’s Rainbow.

     

    Although Munnings portrays Prince as genial and generous, certainly one of his best patrons, he had a fiery temper. As Time noted in 1939, ‘in 1934 he paid some $15,000 damages for clopping behind the ear with a polo mallet an aged riding master who had ridden him off the ball in a pick-up polo match’[9].

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller. He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There he was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.

     

    While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs.  He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists.  When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899. He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

     

    The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings’s life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings’s prolific career, spanning over sixty years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when he was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.

     

    [1] Sir Alfred Munnings, The Second Burst, London 1951, p.338.

    [2] Munnings, op. cit., p.163.

    [3] Ibid., p.161.

    [4] Ibid., p.162.

    [5] Ibid., p.335.

    [6] 25th December 1933.

    [7] The Second Burst, p.333.

    [8] The New York Times, 7th August 1908.

    [9] 16th October 1939.

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - River Scene
    Sir Alfred Munnings River Scene Signed and dated lower left: A.J.Munnings/1908
    Oil on canvas
    20 x 24 in
    50.8 x 61 cm
    Full details

    BS 137

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    River scene

     

    Signed and dated lower left: A.J.Munnings /1908

    Oil on canvas: 20 x 24 in / 50.8 x 61 cm

    Frame size: 26 ½ x 30 ½ in/ 67.3 x 77.5 cm

     

    Provenance:

    Mrs Hilda Mary Finch, North Walsham, Norfolk, by 1954;

    her niece Mrs Charlsie Elizabeth Rackham, née Gaze (b.1911), Barnham Broom, Norfolk, by 1988;

    by family inheritance

     

     

    In 1908 Alfred Munnings was living at Church Farm, Swainsthorpe, about five miles from Norwich, but also kept lodgings in his home village of Mendham. This River scene, with its view across sparkling water to gently rising ground, is probably on the river Waveney near Mendham Mill, where he grew up. Munnings was never happier than when making plein-air studies from nature, fascinated by the challenge of capturing fleeting effects of light. He was influenced by Impressionism from his brief studies at the Atelier Julian in 1902 and also by German painters such as Heinrich von Zügel, whose work he had seen in the 1890s accompanying a patron, John Shaw Tomkins, on trips to Europe.

     

    By 1908 Munnings had created his own assured, daring version of ‘British Impressionism’. There is great freedom in his delineation of the plants in the foreground, with dabbed and dashed strokes conveying vegetation ruffled by the wind. Munnings boldly applies local colours, such as the dabs of yellow round the trees on the far bank, which create a halo of light, contrasting with the royal, duck-egg and midnight blues which ground the majority of the composition. The inventiveness of the brushwork has parallels with The path to the orchard (Munnings Art Museum, Dedham)[1], also dated 1908, a Mendham painting that Munnings showed at the Royal Academy in 1909. However, the cool palette of this River scene, with blues and purples shot through with yellow, gold and white, is found again in Somewhere the sun is shining (private collection)[2].

     

    Many of Munnings’s first patrons were East Anglians. This painting has descended in a Norfolk family since the early twentieth century.

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

     

    Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller.  He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There he was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.

     

    While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs.  He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists.  When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899.  He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

     

    The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings’s life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy.  He met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings’s prolific career, spanning over 60 years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when he was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.

     

    [1] See London, Richard Green Gallery, Sir Alfred Munnings: an Artist’s Life, 2012, no. 6, illustrated in colour. 

    [2] See Sotheby’s, An English Idyll: a Loan Exhibition of Works by Sir Alfred Munnings, 2001, pp.80-81, no. 28, illustrated in colour.

Born in Mendham, Suffolk, Alfred Munnings was the son of a miller. He was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers from 1893 to 1898 and studied at the Norwich School of Art and in Paris. There Munnings was impressed with plein-air naturalism; this, together with his introduction to the racecourse in 1899, influenced the themes for which he became famous.


While in Mendham, Munnings painted many scenes of country life, particularly horse fairs. He went to Cornwall in 1908, and for many years was an important addition to the Newlyn School of artists. When the First World War broke out, Munnings enlisted, despite having the use of only one eye owing to an accident in 1899. He became an army horse trainer near Reading and later went to France as an official war artist, attached to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.


The year 1919 was a major turning-point in all aspects of Munnings's life; he painted his first racehorse, Pothlyn, the winner of the Grand National, and became an Associate of the Royal Academy. Munnings met Violet McBride, whom he was to marry, and bought Castle House, Dedham, where the Munnings Memorial Trust maintains a permanent exhibition of his pictures. Munnings's prolific career, spanning over 60 years, brought him honour, with election to the Presidency of the Royal Academy in 1944, a Knighthood in 1945, and a personal award from the Sovereign in 1947, when Munnings was created Knight of the Royal Victorian Order.


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