Munnings describes this portrait in his memoirs as his first equestrian portrait, one he painted when staying with his aunt, Polly Hill at Mulbarton near Norwich. 'T.O. Sringfield, the Master of the Dunston Harriers, the rosy-faced, and often irate, sportsman sat for me on a wooden saddle-horse in the stable yard of his house, The Rookery, clapping his hand on his thigh, relating stories of the past, when he hunted the Waterford Fox-Hounds' (loc. cit). The picture was memorable because not only was it his first official painting of a huntsman, but Munnings liked the location so much that he eventually moved to nearby Swainsforth from 1906-1911.
The painting was commissioned in early 1905 from Munnings, then aged 27, for the sum of £75 pounds as a presentation piece to mark the retirement of Mr Thomas Springfield as Huntsman to the Dunston Harriers. Funds were raised from the 175 followers and supporters of the hunt. The presentation was made on Saturday 22nd July, 1905 at a dinner at the Royal Hotel, Norwich and was deemed a great success, not least for its characterful rendering of the sitter. At the presentation the portrait was accompanied with a silver jug and salver and a souvenir album extensively illustrated with etched vignettes of hunters, hounds and a hare by Munnings.
Thomas Osborn Springfield (1845-1920) of Arlburgh, Harleston, Norfolk was a landowner and argiculturalist who bred and judged horses and hounds. He hunted throughout England and Ireland, founded the North Norfolk Harriers and was Master of the Curraghmore Foxhounds in Ireland. His Obituary in the Eastern Daily News began 'One of the best known sportmen in Norfolk and Suffolk' and likened him 'to the immortal Jorrocks who regarded a day not spent with hounds as a day wasted.' With the Norwich Staghounds he earned the nickname of the 'Stayer' and hunted only a few days before his death.
Mangreen, was purchased as a five year old by Mr. Geoffery Buxton, Master of the Dunston Harriers in 1897, and in 1905 was presented to Mr. Springfield who had ridden him during the previous seasons. Springfield and Mangreen hunted together until 1915 when the bay died, aged 23.
The composition of this work is unusual because in later years Munnings positioned the subject walking from a darkened area into light so that the head is silhouetted against sky or a distant panorama to emphasize movement. Here, Mangreen and the hounds have halted in a clearing and their position against the horizon give them monumentality and a statuesque quality.
The style of this portrait is more controlled than in later works in which Munnings brushstrokes are expressed with greater freedom and bravura. The elements here are more realistic and detailed, typical of traditional equestrian portraits, although the handling of paint that describes the hounds gives evidence of the fluidity that was to become a hallmark of Munnings' later style.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta Ramos for her help in preparing this catalogue entry. The picture will be included in her forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings'.