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Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Property of an Estate
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)

December Morning, Cornwall

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)
December Morning, Cornwall
signed 'A.J. MUNNINGS' (lower left)
oil on canvas
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61 cm.)
The Hardy Collection.
with Richard Green, London, until 1993.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 1 December 2006, lot 97 (sold $262,400 to the present owner).
Norwich, Castle Museum, Alfred Munnings, August-September 1928, no. 124.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

Munnings moved from Swainsthorpe, near Norwich to the artists' colony at Lamorna, Cornwall in 1911: 'In those days before motor traffic brought sight-seers and countless visitors to Cornwall, lodgings were cheap; farm butter and clotted cream were in abundance; no electric pylons or posts straddled the moors or lined the roads; no sounds of motor horns disturbing the villages; no great char-a-bancs took up the whole of a narrow road, forcing unfortunate people to retire to some wider space or pull in a gateway whilst they sailed past. All was serenity and peace.' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, pp. 275-6).

A great hunting enthusiast, Munnings rode with the Western Foxhounds. Colonel William (Willy) Bolitho was Master and 'A few farmers, a dealer, a butcher, a doctor or two and a lawyer made up the field - all the best of friends' (Munnings, op. cit., p. 285). Inspired by his experiences in the field, the artist painted a series of hunting subjects set against Cornwall's woods, moors and cliffs. His model for these works was a local boy called Ned Osborne. 'I found a new lad, a primitive Cornish youth. Ned was the name of this simple soul, who grew into a useful combination of groom-model and posed for many a picture.' He 'had the right-coloured face and figure for a scarlet coat and a black cap. Often did the patient fellow sit as model for me, and he liked it.' (op. cit., pp. 272-73).

The horse in the present work is probably the grey mare which Munnings purchased on a visit to Ireland in 1913. His exhibition at the Leicester Galleries that spring brought him the vast sum of eight hundred and fifty pounds and 'Being smitten with the hunting in that western end of Cornwall, with what were known as the Western Foxhounds, I determined to buy a grey horse.' (op. cit., p. 282). Together with his old Norwich friend, Richard Bullard, he travelled to Ireland to find one. Having studied the catalogue for a sale at Sewell's, John Milady, an Irish horse dealer, marked one or two lots worth looking at. 'The next day lot so and so, described as "grey mare, 15.2 hands, six years old", put into the sale by the executors of a late judge who had driven her in his brougham, was bought for me by Milady for thirty-three guineas' (op. cit., p. 283).

The grey mare met with approval back in Cornwall, 'Autumn came with the first meet of the Western Hounds. I remember riding the grey mare to one of these and how Colonel Willy Bolitho, then Master, said to me, "Where do you get your horses, Munnings?" There was no doubt she was the sort they liked in Cornwall - not too large, strong, active and short in the leg..."She's a good 'un," said the Master - and so she was.' Munnings had also purchased a bay horse in Ireland and 'with these two entirely fresh models, and using Red House Moor and the adjoining Trevelloe Wood as a painting-ground, I began a series of pictures.' (op. cit., pp. 284-85).

There are very few examples in Munnings' oeuvre that depict horse and rider from a head-on angle. Munnings experimented with this difficult view point in response to Lucy Kemp Welch's masterpiece Colt Hunting in the New Forest. This perspective can be seen in Hunting Morning (1913, Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, Dedham) and also in Going to the Meet (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne), the latter also showing Ned Osborne posing on a grey horse. There is a great sense of movement in this animated scene and the overall feel is one of anticipation as the group ascends the hill towards their quarry on a clear, cold and bright winter's day. The eagerness of hounds trotting up a lane and the crispness of the cool air are palpable.

We are grateful to Lorian Peralta Ramos for her help in preparing this catalogue entry. The painting will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings.

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