Although Munnings had met Mr Prince a number of times whilst dining at the English Club in London, it was during a transatlantic crossing on Berengaria in 1924 that they were reacquainted. Munnings was traveling to America to judge the twenty-third International Exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Chicago. During the voyage, Prince persuaded Munnings to paint several works of himself and his family. This led to numerous other commissions from some of America's most prominent families. It is said that Munnings viewed his time in America as six months of "gloriously mad days", but a "trail of labour" (A.J. Munnings, The Second Burst, Bungay, 1951, p. 160).
Although the present work was painted in America, Frederick H. Prince hunted in England and was Master of the Pau Hunt in France, where he had a stable of over sixty horses. Pau, a château at the foot of the Pyrénées, was originally a fortified staging post on the banks of Le Gave de Pau. King Henri IV of France was born there in 1553 and it was Prince's grandparents who were responsible for its transformation into a brick château.
Pau became popular with the English when Wellington's troops found the climate in the area to be most enjoyable. During the 19th century, the area became popular for those seeking the restorative properties of the mild climate and with them came their leisure activities: fox hunting, polo and racing. The hunt was established in 1842.
The pack of hounds, under Mr Prince, were originally from a West Norfolk pack, drafted and sent to Mr Prince by its famous master, Colonel Seymour of Barwick, near Fakenham. Munnings visited Pau on several occasions and painted other equestrians such as Mr and Mrs La Montagne in 1923, (ill. op. cit., after p. 97) and an American woman, Miss Belle Baruch in 1932.
When Munnings agreed to paint Mr Prince, he insisted that it was conditional on Mr Prince having a grey horse. Munnings recalled the conversation, '..... he must be on a grey or have a grey horse in the picture. "God bless us!" said Prince, "but my greys are with the stud in France." "Psha!" said I - "buy a good-looking one somewhere or other!"'. It transpired that Munnings was also painting Paul Mellon and he persuaded him to sell one of his grey mares: '"What a performer! You don't want to sell her, I suppose?" said I. "Well I do", said Mellon, "my teams are all browns, and I don't want her." I sent a wire to Mr. Prince. The reply came; "Buy the mare"'. (ibid, pp. 160-161.)
Munnings had only started to paint commissioned portraits such as this four years earlier. Here, he has taken a traditional format of a huntsman riding to hounds and transformed a usually static image into one filled with animation and spontaneity. By positioning the subject high on the horizon he has created a sense of monumentality which is accentuated by the contrast of the dark and brooding sky with the light grey color of the horse. His mastery of equine anatomy emphasizes the strength of the horse and imbues a sense of nobility. The muscles are beautifully delineated and he has convincingly portrayed the graceful strides of the horse amongst the frantic and busy movement of the hounds beneath. The horse's head is sensitively articulated and displays an exquisite expression of alertness and intelligence. By closing the composition along the lower edge in amongst the hounds, Munnings has drawn the viewer into the picture and added to the sense of motion.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos.
FREDERICK HENRY PRINCE (1859-1953)
A stockbroker, investment banker and financier, Frederick Henry Prince was born in Winchester, Massachusetts in 1859. The son of Frederick O. Prince, former Mayor of the city of Boston, and Helen Henry Prince, he studied at Harvard University but left in his sophomore year to enter the business world. In 1884, he married Abigail Kingsley Norman (1860-1949), with whom he had two sons, Frederick Henry Prince, Jun. (1885-1962) and Norman Prince (1887-1916), who was tragically killed whilst serving with the Lafayette Escadrille in France during World War I.
In the early part of the 20th century, Prince began acquiring small companies and merging them into the Union Stock Yards & Transit Co., of which he was Chairman. The company had a controlling interest in the Pere Marquette Railway and Chicago Junction Railways, giving it access to hundreds of miles of railway lines and nearly one million acres of land. In the early 1920s, Prince expanded his portfolio by taking a controlling interest in Armour and Company, one of America's foremost meatpacking operations.
His main residence was 'Princemere' at Prides Crossing, near Boston. However, he also owned a home in Biarritz and an estate at Pau in the foothills of the Pyrénées, where he was Master of the Foxhounds for over twenty-five years. Other property belonging to Mr Prince included a house in Aiken, South Carolina and the Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island (acquired in 1932).