This unusual composition was painted by Munnings as a young man whilst he was living either in Mendham or near Norwich and hunting with some of the farmers' hunts including the Suffolk Staghounds and the Norwich Staghounds. Munnings recalls those days and the colorful characters he encountered, 'a cavalcade of farmers, a doctor or two, a squire or two, a butcher, perhaps, a veterinary, some hard riding ladies and last but not least cavalry officers...Hunting became part of my life and I saw many things on those days...Such were needed to freshen my mind and vision.' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, pp. 257-8)
By 1902, Munnings had already become an associate member of the Royal Academy but many of his hunting scenes in oil were regularly exhibited at the Norwich Art Circle between 1897-1901 and numerous other Norfolk art exhibitions. His intimate understanding of these hunting scenes enabled him to capture the true feeling of a moment such as this when the riders, horses and hounds wait patiently to pass through the gate. The muted tones effectively convey the fading light and damp atmosphere of a winter's day.
This present work can be compared in style to the set of four hunting scenes also from 1902: The Meet, Going Out, Racing for the Kill and Homeward Bound, which are in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (illustrated Wildenstein, 1983, nos. 1, 2, 3, 4). It is likely the model for the central horse was a brown mare that Munnings bought at the time, 'with a short dock and a hog mane who served as a hack, hunter and model...my mainstay in the chase...A more willing or sounder creature never lived. I wonder I never rode the animal off her legs. There were days when I lived on her back'. (op. cit., p. 156 and 184).
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos's forthcoming catalogue raisonée of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.