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

The whip, Trevelloe Wood, Cornwall

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)
The whip, Trevelloe Wood, Cornwall
signed 'A.J. Munnings' (lower left)
oil on canvas
40 x 50 in. (101.6 x 127 cm.)
Private Collection, U.S.A.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1993, lot 251A.
with Richard Green, London.
Private Collection, Connecticut.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 1 December 1998, lot 25.
Private Collection, New York.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 2 December 2005, lot 149, where acquired.
Royal Academy Illustrated, London, 1925, p. 32.
L. Lindsay, A.J. Munnings, R.A.: Pictures of Horses and English Life, London, 1927, p. 59.
L. Lindsay, A.J. Munnings, R.A.: Pictures of Horses and English Life, London, 1939, p. 93, no. 44, illustrated.
A. J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, London, 1950, pp.272-3, 284.
London, Royal Academy, 1925, no. 103, as The Whip.
Special notice

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.
Sale room notice
Please note that the gilt frame this painting has been displayed in during the public view at Christie’s King Street, is a loan frame, the frame illustrated with the lot image on the website is sold with this lot.

Brought to you by

Adrian Hume-Sayer
Adrian Hume-Sayer

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

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

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

'Fresh discoveries of all that paint could do led me on. What joy there was in finding out and seeing colour - becoming aware of beauties in everything, beauties never seen before, I lived a painter's paradise' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, London, p. 97).

‘Call him a sportsman and a painter if you will, but not a ‘sporting painter’, for he is a painter of light, and there have been very few of them. To the vast majority of painters, light is what one sees by. To those few, light is what one sees’ (S.C. Kaines Smith, ‘The New P.R.A., 1944, Sir Alfred J. Munnings’, The Studio, July 1944, p. 46).

Sir Alfred Munnings is undeniably the greatest British equestrian painter since George Stubbs in the 18th Century. He was born in Mendham in Suffolk in 1878 and, after an apprenticeship as a print maker, he attended the Norwich School of Art and spent time in Paris at the Académie Julian. His European experiences provided him with first hand exposure to the avant-garde Impressionist techniques and theories prevalent on the Continent. This experience reinforced what he had already absorbed from the works of Henry La Thangue, a fellow painter whom Munnings much admired, 'who showed the beauties of sunlight', the benefits of painting in the open air, and looser, more fluid brushwork.

He moved 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’ (A.J. Munnings, op. cit., pp. 275-6). This period in the artists career was immortalized in the book and subsequent film Summer in February. It is also captured in his portrait of his first wife entitled The Morning Ride (Fig. 1) which, like the present picture, silhouettes a single horse and rider in a silvan setting, sparkling with dappled light.

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 most 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, 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).

The Whip, Trevelloe Wood, Cornwall reflects a more spontaneous and fluid style for Munnings and the beginning of his mastery of reflective colour theory, which was to become one of his greatest trademarks. The works are evocative documents of a bygone era before the First World War, when rural and agricultural life ceased to be dependent on the horse, and rural depictions were becoming increasingly factual and less idealised.

During World War I Munnings became a war artist assigned to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade in France, but after the war he focussed primarily on equestrian portraits and racing scenes. His pictures possess a natural versatility and brilliance that reaches far beyond the sporting arena. In 1944 he was elected President of the Royal Academy, but his memoirs indicates that his early years prior to his launch into fame as a society artist, were perhaps his happiest. He was able to roam the countryside at will painting those subjects that inspired his creativity. 'Such days and such life were only possible in the environment of that pre-war period up to 1914. Rural England has never been the same playground for the artist since' ('Reflections of the Past', The Studio, vol. 128, 1944, p. 75).

We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.

More from An Adventurous Spirit: An Important Private Collection Sold to Benefit a Charitable Foundation

View All
View All