Sir Alfred Munnings
The Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace
Oil on canvas: 29.8(h) x 36.1(w) in / 75.6(h) x 91.8(w) cm
SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS
Mendham 1878 - 1959 Dedham
Ref: BZ 132
The Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews
Oil on canvas: 29¾ x 36 1/8 in / 75.6 x 91.8 cm
Frame Size: 38 x 44½ in/ 96.5 x 113 cm
Painted circa 1936
Wildenstein & Co., New York, acquired from the above;
Private collection, Ohio, USA, acquired from the above on 15th July 1966
With their shared love of all things equestrian, it is perhaps unsurprising that Alfred Munnings was drawn into the orbit of the Royal Family. His career as a society equestrian painter took off after the First World War, with a commission from Princess Alice (George V’s cousin) to paint her husband, the Earl of Athlone. In 1920 he painted The Prince of Wales on ‘Forest Witch’ (private collection), portraying the most glamorous young man of the era – the future Edward VIII – out hunting. In 1925 Queen Mary commissioned The State Procession to Ascot (Royal Collection). Munnings was given permission to make studies of the Windsor Greys, the magnificent horses which pull the royal carriages.
This painting depicts a team of Windsor Greys being hitched by a stable hand to the Gold State Coach. It is one of a number of works thought to be related to a painting of Edward VIII’s Coronation Procession, never executed by Munnings because of Edward’s Abdication. Edward VIII became King in January 1936 and abdicated on 11th December that year, because of opposition to his marrying the twice-divorced American Mrs Wallis Simpson. The Coronation at Westminster Abbey had been planned for 12th May 1937.
The Gold State Coach at the Royal Mews, with its bravura brushwork and rich impasto, reflects how seriously Munnings took the planning for his major works, studying elements of the composition before combining them into a seamless whole. He delights in the rococo exuberance of the coach, commissioned by George III in 1762 and used for every Coronation since that of George IV in 1821. Built by Samuel Butler, it has painted door panels by Giovanni Battista Cipriani. The roof is surmounted by three cherubs representing the genii of England, Scotland and Ireland, supporting the Royal Crown and holding the Sceptre, the Sword of State and the Ensign of Knighthood. The coach is pulled by eight Windsor Greys, managed by four postillions. Munnings meticulously defines the red Morocco leather harness and gilt buckles of the greys and the scarlet-and-gold uniform of the postillion, captivated by every element of royal pomp and circumstance.
A painting of the coach without the Windsor Greys, The Gilded Coach, painted in the Palace Yard in grey weather, 1936, is in the Munnings Art Museum, Dedham.
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.
 The Public Catalogue Foundation: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership: Essex, London 2006, p.103, no.140, illus. in colour.