richard green Ken Howard

Sir Alfred Munnings (Mendham 1878 - Dedham 1959)

  • 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.

  • 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

    BP 111

     

    SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS, PRA, RWS

    Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham

     

    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

    Frame size: 18 ½ x 25 ½ in / 47 x 64.8 cm

     

    Provenance:

    Private collection, UK

     

     

    With his instinct for composition and fine draughtsmanship, Alfred Munnings was an excellent painter in watercolours, which he studied at Norwich School of Art while completing his lithographic apprenticeship with Page Brothers. He exhibited watercolours regularly in the first half of his career.

     

    Augereau and Shrimp at the ford is part of a series depicting horses being driven through shallow water, which culminated in Munnings’s large oil The ford (Lord Lloyd Webber Collection), shown at the Royal Academy in 1911. Munnings was inspired by the Munich artist Heinrich von Zugel’s paintings of cattle watering in shallow streams, which he had seen on trips to Germany with his patron John Shaw Tomkins. In 1908, when this watercolour was made, Munnings had a studio at his aunt Polly’s Church Farm in Swainsthorpe, five miles from Norwich, but frequently returned to the family home in Mendham. He had acquired a gypsy caravan, a string of ponies and a groom-cum-model named Shrimp, ‘an undersized, tough, artful young brigand’ who ‘had no home of his own, no family ties, no parents that he knew’[1]. It suited Munnings’s romantic, Bohemian view of himself to roam East Anglia with this pack, painting en plein air, but while Shrimp ‘slept under the caravan with the dogs’[2], Munnings enjoyed the feather beds of local inns.

     

    This watercolour shows Shrimp leading the grey pony Augereau and a group of bay ponies through a ford, with the gypsy caravan following on behind. As so often, Munnings makes a grey animal the focus of a painting, revelling in the blue and lilac shadows of the creature’s coat. Augereau trots forward confidently, giving a thrust of movement to the composition. Munnings fearlessly tackles the foreshortening of a head-on view, particularly with Shrimp, who leans towards us as his mount takes the upward slope.

     

    The pony Augereau was one of Munnings’s favourite models. Named after a French General in WG Wills’s Napoleonic romp A Royal Divorce, which Munnings had seen at the Theatre Royal, Norwich, he was bought from the gypsy horse dealer Drake, who also introduced him to Shrimp. Augereau appears in the oils On the road and The old gravel pit, shown at the Royal Academy of 1908, and went on to star in The ford (RA 1911) and A Norfolk sandpit (RA 1912; Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery). He remained with Munnings for the rest of his days, ‘not only bringing me wealth, but earning his keep a hundredfold’[3].

     

    In this watercolour, as in several of the Ford oils, Munnings is interested in the complexities of subdued light. This ‘grey weather’ subject allows him to explore the tonalities of brown, blue, slate grey, ochre and cream which ripple across the painting, binding the composition together. By cutting out the horizon and the sky he gains a sense of immediacy and concentrates on the energy and beauty of the horses. Touches of yellow watercolour and the cream paper showing through at the left of the painting indicate the unseen sun filtered through cloud and reflected in the river.

     

    In his autobiography of 1950, An Artist’s Life, the seventy-two-year-old Munnings wrote lyrically of those far-off days painting The ford motifs: ‘Standing on rising ground, looking down on the leading ponies coming out of the water, I spaced the design – cutting out the sky – using the distant country for the top portion of the picture. Ponies, water, reflections, filled the rest of the space….I hear myself shouting, “Hi! wake that dun horse; shove his head up!” or, to a boy with a pole, “Keep the water moving.” ’[4]

     


    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, An Artist’s Life, London 1950, p.207.

    [2] Munnings, op. cit., p.207.

    [3] Ibid., p.198.

    [4] Ibid.. p.239.

  • 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. 

     

    .


    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.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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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