A J Munnings Collage
Sir Alfred Munnings
Alfred Munnings was born of old East Anglian farming stock on the 8th October 1878, the second son of John Munnings, Miller of Mendham, Suffolk. He revealed artistic talents at a very early age, even before his school days at Redenhall Grammar School and Framlingham College, and readers of his autobiography will recall the drawings of Indians, trappers and scalp-hunters, Knights Templers, and "My Mother's pony, Fanny', done at the age of nine.
Leaving Framlingham at the age of fourteen and a half Alfred Munnings was apprenticed to the firm of Page Brothers, lithographers of Norwich as a poster artist from which period date the designs of "lovely girls in large hats" for Caley's Chocolates. Many examples of his posters are to be seen in the Studio at Castle House. After working from nine in the morning to seven at night he attended the Norwich School of art for a further two hours each evening. During his six years of apprenticeship he came to the attention of John Shaw Tomkins, a director of Caley's Chocolates, who was his earliest patron and who greatly encouraged him and subsequently took him on a visit to the Continent.
Pike Fishing in January
Pike fishing in January together with Stranded (Bristol City Art Gallery) were the first pictures that Munnings exhibited at the Royal Academy, when he was merely twenty years old. This early example of Munnings' preference for plein air observation was vividly described in the artist's autobiography: “At the School of Art I was already painting still life oils, and soon began, on Saturday afternoons, to carry out box and easel to the country for landscape; but I badly wanted to find a model and do a figure somewhere outside. In the press room downstairs at Page Brothers two men were always at work... The younger man ‘Jumbo’ Betts became and friend of mine. We arranged to.. leave on a Saturday (and go) to the river at Lakenham - imagine a quiet chill January afternoon, a grey sky, a sluggish narrow river between rows of bare pollarded willows with pale dead reeds and sedges along either bank. This being a small picture I carried it through in a painting with "Jumbo" Betts the model stamping his feet to keep warm. Hung on the line (at the Royal Academy) and sold for ten guineas - a vast sum”
Portrait of Mrs Margaretta Park Frew Riding
A Winner At Epsom
The Apprentice Jockey
Going out at Kempton
Munnings lost the sight of his right eye in an accident when he was twenty (a blow from a briar when lifting a dog over a hedge) and, rejected on two occasions by the Army because of his sight, he spent the first three years of the 1914-18 war mainly in Lamorna. In 1917, with the help of a friend, he got a lowly job caring for remounts at Calcot Park near Reading and on his departure from Lamorna, Laura Knight said of him "His extraordinary vitality, his joy in his work, none of us could forget him. He was a fighter. He fought the wind that shivered his easel and canvas. He fought the heat and cold. He fought the shifting sun and the changing shadows". Her remarks underline his amazing achievements in overcoming the handicap of being blind in one eye. Visitors to Castle House will see evidence of the enormous and versatile output which was to continue to the end of his life. (siralfredmunnings.co.uk)
Alfred Munnings is regarded as one of the greatest sporting artists of all time. His superb collection of equestrian portraits and horse racing scenes has inspired many of today’s equestrian artists. (theapprenticejockey.blogspot.com) In 1918 Alfred Munnings served as a war artist attached to the Canadian Cavalry brigade. After the war in 1919 Alfred Munnings was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and moved to a new studio in Glebe Place, Chelsea and bought Castle House at Dedham.
Munning's glorification of Flowerdew's charge
The last great cavalry charge
Battle of Moreuil Wood
Nearly three-quarters of the Canadian cavalry involved in this attack against German machine-gun positions at Moreuil Wood on 30 March 1918 were killed or wounded. This included Lieutenant G.M. Flowerdew, Lord Strathcona's Horse, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading the charge. Unable to break the trench deadlock and of little use at the front, cavalry remained behind the lines for much of the war. During the German offensives of March and April 1918, however, the cavalry played an essential role in the open warfare that temporarily confronted the retreating British forces.
Study of a Bay Racehorse
Study of J. B. Rank's Horse, 'Prince Regent', Druids' Lodge
My Grey Mare
The Bay Horse, 'Patrick', Bought in Dublin with Grey Mare
A Grey Horse in the Unsaddling Paddock
Epsom Collection: The Munnings Collection
The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum
Images from bbc.co.uk
Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum
Munnings was elected president of the Royal Academy of Art in 1944, a post he held until 1949. His presidency is most famous for the departing speech he gave in 1949, attacking modernism. The broadcast was heard by millions of listeners to BBC radio. An evidently inebriated Munnings claimed that the work of Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso had corrupted art. He recalled that Winston Churchill had once said to him, "Alfred, if you met Picasso coming down the street would you join with me in kicking his... something something?" to which Munnings said he replied "Yes Sir, I would". He was awarded a knighthood in 1944. He died at Castle House, Dedham, Essex, on 17 July 1959. After his death, his wife turned their home in Dedham into a museum of his work. The village pub in Mendham and a street is also named after him.