Upcoming Auctions and Events

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Property from the Collection of Mrs. Elizabeth R. Moran
SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)

After the Race, Cheltenham

SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
After the Race, Cheltenham
signed 'A. J. Munnings' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 1/8 x 45 ½ in. (91.8 x 115.6 cm.)
Painted circa 1937-1939.
Emanuel J. Rousuck (1898-1970), New York.
with Newman Galleries, Philadelphia.
Arnold Webster.
with Frost and Reed, London.
Private collection, US.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 28 May 1981, lot 136.
Sir A. J. Munnings, The Finish, London, 1952, pp. 284-286.
Glasgow, The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Annual Exhibition, 1937, no. 21.
(possibly) London, The Leicester Galleries, Paintings by A. J. Munnings since 1928, April-May 1938, no. 22.
Saratoga Springs, NY, Exhibition of Sporting Art, 1-15 August 1981, no. 13, illustrated.
Saratoga Springs, NY, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, The Mastery of Munnings, 8 July-4 September 2000, p. 57, unnumbered, as After the Race.
Chadds Ford, PA, Brandywine River Museum, Alfred J. Munnings from Regional Collections, 6 June-1 September 2008, as After the Race.
Middleburg, VA, National Sporting Library and Museum, Munnings: Out in the Open: The Open-Air Works of Sir Alfred James Munnings, 24 April-15 September 2013, pp. 88-89, 129, pl. 51, illustrated, as After the Race.

Brought to you by

Laura H. Mathis
Laura H. Mathis Specialist, Head of Sale

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Breaking with the two hundred year historical tradition of racing compositions featuring a horse galloping across the finishing line, Munnings brought to the portrayal of the racing occasion a revolutionary freshness and brilliance. His focus was directed towards the minutes prior to the start of the race; the preparations for saddling (see lot 33) and the dramatic moments as the horses and jockeys jostled for an advantageous starting position. However, Munnings's interests also lay in the direct aftermath of a race, scenes not usually depicted before. ‘The one subject of all that I longed to put on canvas was to be called “After the Race”.’ (Munnings, The Finish, p. 284.)
‘The subject I wanted to paint was of unsaddling… A winter afternoon with bright sun…many horses are returning after a steeplechase. With extended nostrils and quivering tails they come to a stand; the jockeys, dropping their reins, dismount and unsaddle, and all too soon the steaming horses are led away and the scene is ended. … The principal figure in the scene I wanted to paint was a jockey about to dismount… and the horse was a grey.’ (op. cit., pp. 284-5.)
However, as with so many of his racing pictures, Munnings struggled to capture the scene exactly as he saw it in his mind’s eye, creating four different versions of it. Two others are in museum collections: a similar sized picture at Southampton Art Gallery, UK; and a larger version (40 ¾ x 63 ¾ in.) forms part of The Paul Mellon Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in Richmond. The final variant was only 30 x 40 in. and is currently untraced.
While in each of the known versions the grouping on the left showing the bay horse being unsaddled, ears pricked and neck taught with nervous energy, remains the same, the pose of the grey horse is significantly altered in the present work. Here the grey appears more weary after a strenuous run, with neck stretched low and ears back. The colors of the jockey are also changed from yellow silks in the other compositions to the light blue and pink of Lord Astor’s colors.
William Waldorf, 2nd Viscount Astor (1879-1952) was one of the pre-eminent owner-breeders during the first half of the 20th century. His horses were trained, without exception, by Alec Taylor, known as the ‘Wizard of Manton’, who ran the historic Manton stables near Marlborough. The Astor family were important patrons of Munnings, commissioning a number of works from the artist over his career and helping establish his reputation during the 1920s and 30s.
As the jockey in After the Race, Cheltenham is wearing Astor’s colors it seems more than likely that the present work is the second of the ‘After the Race’ series. In his memoirs Munnings recalled that while for the first canvas he used a horse of his own, the second was painted at Manton using a dark grey horse of Sir Victor Sassoon’s. ‘A lad in colours posed on him in the act of dropping the reins before dismounting.’ (op. cit., p. 285.)
The backdrop for the painting is the enclosure at Cheltenham. The inauguration of the Gold Cup in 1924 popularised Cheltenham racecourse, regarded as challenging due to its undulating and variable ground. The race is now a major feature of the British sporting calendar, and is regarded as the pinnacle of jump racing. Munnings first attended the Cheltenham March Meeting in 1920 while on his honeymoon with his second wife Violet, staying at the Lygon Arms in nearby Broadway. It was the first of many visits, and the course also became the inspiration for one of Munnings’s most celebrated saddling enclosure paintings, The Saddling Paddock, Cheltenham March Meeting (c. 1947, Private Collection).
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos, Tristram Lewis and the Curatorial staff at The Munnings Museum for their assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

More from European Art Part I

View All
View All