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Sir Alfred Munnings (Mendham 1878 - Dedham 1959)

  • Sir Alfred Munnings - Augereau and Shrimp at the ford
    Sir Alfred Munnings Augereau and Shrimp at the ford Signed and dated lower right: A.J. Munnings /1908
    Watercolour and gouache
    12 x 18 in
    30.5 x 45.7 cm
    Full details
  • Sir Alfred Munnings - Saddling
    Sir Alfred Munnings Saddling Signed lower left: A.J. Munnings
    Oil on panel
    11 1/2 x 16 in
    29.2 x 40.6 cm
    Full details

    BP 15

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    Saddling

     

    Signed lower left: A.J. Munnings

    Oil on panel: 11 ½ x 16 in / 29.2 x 40.6 cm

     

    Painted circa 1931

     

    Provenance:

    Private collection, UK

     

     

    Unlike nineteenth century sporting artists, Alfred Munnings rarely painted a horse race in full flight. From the rough-and-ready Cornish St Buryan races (shown at the Royal Academy in 1915) to his Newmarket Start pictures of the 1940s and 50s, Munnings grasped that the atmosphere of racing is made up of myriad facets: the expectant crowds, the parade ring, saddling, going down to the Start.

     

    Saddling is a bravura evocation of the serious minutes before the race, the culmination of weeks of training. The horse stands patiently as jockey and trainer confer for the final time. The sober clothes of the trainers and lads in the ring contrast with the dazzling sunlight playing on the jockey’s silks and the glossy coat of the horse. The silks are the same colour as those of the lead jockey in Going out at Epsom, RA 1931 (Munnings Museum, Dedham) and the present Saddling was probably made around the same time. Munnings began a painting campaign after the Epsom Weeks of 1929 and 1930, producing a trilogy of subjects, The saddling paddock, Epsom, Unsaddling at Epsom and Going out at Epsom. He worked both on the racecourse and at home at Castle House, Dedham, using his grooms Harvey, Bayfield and Slocombe, silks kept in the studio, and his own horses, which were in fine fettle after a season’s hunting on Exmoor. 

     

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    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 then 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.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 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.  

     

     

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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