• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7728

    Victorian and British Impressionist Pictures including Drawings and Watercolours

    4 June 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 69

    Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)

    Pike fishing in January

    Price Realised  


    Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)
    Pike fishing in January
    signed 'A.J.MUNNINGS/98.' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    15 x 12 1/8 in. (38.1 x 30.8 cm.)
    Together with a signed letter from the artist to W. Holden White Esq.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    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 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' (op.cit., p.71).

    The picture will be included in the artist's forthcoming catalogue raisonné, being prepared by Lorian Peralta Ramos.

    Detailed below is a transcription of a signed letter from Munnings to W. Holden White, which is attached to the reverse of the canvas.

    From Sir Alfred Munnings, P.P.R.A., K.C.V.O.
    Castle House,
    Colchester, Essex.
    11th December, 1950

    My Dear Sir,

    Thank you for your grand letter. I note you are 'a dammed American*' who has lived and done all sorts of things here for the past seven years, and I note you have read my book, also that you are a brother-in-law of Lord Ismay's. One day if I could have your telephone number I would like to meet you and get a shock with that small picture of 'Pike Fishing in January' which you seem to have. It is most kind of you to write, and I appreciate it.

    Yours sincerely,

    Alfred Munnings
    W. Holden White Esq.

    * Your own expression.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    W. Holden White Esq., and thence by descent to the present owner.


    Sir Alfred Munnings, An Artist's Life, Museum Press, 1950, p.71.
    S. Booth, Sir Alfred Munnings 1878-1959, Wilson, 1978, p.36.


    London, Royal Academy, 1899, no. 406.