Trees and Sky (studies) – A pair

by Sir Alfred Munnings

P.O.A.

Sir Alfred Munnings was a leading figure in the British art establishment in the first half of the 20th century and is one of the greatest equestrian painters in the history of British art. Although it was his horse portraits that brought him widespread acclaim, he was also a highly accomplished painter of pure landscapes. What sets Munnings apart from so many other artists of his era is his sheer ability as a painter, which is apparent in these landscapes, the freedom and spontaneity of his brushstrokes and his obvious enjoyment in the lusciousness of the paint itself combined brilliantly with his subtle and highly individual colouring.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 16.5 x 24.1 cm/6.5 x 9.5 ins each
SIGNATURE: Both initialled
MEDIUM:  Oil on canvas, a pair

Catalogue No: 5932 Categories: ,

Sir Alfred Munnings was a leading figure in the British art establishment in the first half of the 20th century and is one of the greatest equestrian painters in the history of British art. Although it was his horse portraits that brought him widespread acclaim, he was also a highly accomplished painter of pure landscapes.

As a native of East Anglia, Munnings followed in the footsteps of Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. Like them, he drew his inspiration from the surrounding countryside, with its flat terrain, river banks and open skies. During World War II, he lived on Exmoor, where he painted a bleaker and more dramatic landscape but with an equal devotion to direct observation and a passion for colour, light and form. The landscapes of Munnings are very different, of course, from those of Gainsborough. He was less interested in the activities of country people or animals and concentrated on the simple landscape elements of hills, foliage and skies as in these examples ‘Trees and Sky (studies)’. They were evocative of particular times, places and seasons and he was particularly interested in the ever changing effects of light and shade and of the weather.

Private collection, United Kingdom

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Sir Alfred Munnings was one of the finest British Impressionist painters of the 20th century. His work largely depicts rural scenes, racing and hunting, and most commonly his favourite animal, the noble horse. Munnings’ consummate skill in equine portraiture stemmed from a childhood spent admiring and sketching horses at his parents’ Suffolk mill. Today, his horse paintings remain among his most celebrated and collectable works.

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.

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