The theme of ladies in a canoe occupied Munnings from the 1920s until the end of his career and many of these works remain at his home in Castle House. Although Munnings had established himself as an equestrian painter by this date, he still sought out quiet moments to capture country activities such as this. Having grown up along the River Waveney, boating was a life long passion albeit one he was seldom able to enjoy. However one of his main requirements in purchasing a house was that it was located near a river. 'My one joy, thirty years ago, was knowing that my home was near a perfect river and a village in an unspoiled country ... This full river was our playground and a reminder of my youth' (see A.J. Munnings, The Second Burst, London, 1951, pp. 49-50).
He took advantage of the River Stour near his new home at Dedham and painted his first canoe picture which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1924 while another version was sent to the International Exhibition at Pittsburg the same year. The Royal Academy picture was sold at Christie's, London, on 17 November 1977, lot 249.
The present work is the most unusual of his canoe pictures because of its vibrant colouring and very impressionistic handling of paint. The composition departs from the other canoe pictures as the other subjects are in profile. There are two versions of ladies in a row boat that are also arranged on the diagonal. One version is at Castle House and the other is in a British private collection.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta Ramos for her help in preparing this catalogue entry. The picture will be included in her forthcoming Catalogue Raisonne of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings.