Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)

Gorse on Ringland Hills

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Gorse on Ringland Hills
signed and dated 'AJ Munnings/1910' (lower right)
oil on canvas
30 3/8 x 35 ¼ in. (77.2 x 90.2 cm.)
Rev. Harvey W. G. Thursby, Norfolk, by 1928.
J. H. Thursby, London, by 1956, by descent.
Bequest of the above to The National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket, 1990.
Private collection, US, acquired from the above, 1991.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 3 December 1998, lot 180.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
'Sir Alfred Munnings in Retrospect', The Studio International, June 1956, vol 151, pp. 182-3, illustrated.
Norwich, Castle Museum, Loan Collection of Pictures by A J Munnings, RA, August-September 1928, no. 206.
London, Royal Academy, Exhibition of works by Sir Alfred J. Munnings, K.C.V.O., P.P.R.A., 1956, no. 60, as Gorse on the Ringland Hills.

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

Landscape painting was Sir Alfred Munnings’s first love, and the artist would return to depicting the landscape of his native East Anglia throughout his career, emulating his great predecessor John Constable. In 1910-11 Munnings explored the Ringland Hills near Norwich with the gypsy boy Shrimp, a caravan and a string of ponies. ‘The gorse was in bloom,’ the artist wrote of this time in his memoirs, ‘to hesitate would be foolish’ (A. J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 213). Looking back on these trips, Munnings recalled: ‘I developed a passion for the gorgeous, blazing yellow of gorse in bloom, and looking back, I am sorrowful to think how little I indulged it and how many springs and summers have slipped away since then. No lying in the sun, breathing almond-scented airs, dreaming, listening to the hum of bees and the tiny snapping of gorse-beans bursting in the heat and stillness of noon’ (ibid., p. 212).
In the present work Munnings explores both the color and textures of the gorse in all its glory. The large bushes dominating the foreground are a tour de force of confident, energetic brushwork and vibrant color which are given greater life by the artist’s bold, complex impasto. Munnings was particularly enamored of exploring the effects of the late afternoon sun on the golden flowers, and here has used a shaft of this warm sunlight cutting across the center ground of the composition to illuminate the figure of his groom, Shrimp, one of the artist’s other favorite subjects, accompanied by a donkey and a grazing horse. The landscape itself is beautifully formally composed, regressing diagonally across the picture plane from the left foreground to the background at right, with the saturated colors and expressive impasto of the foreground contrasted against the more subtle application of the paint in the background, which is lightly tinged with tones of pink and lilac.
Gorse on Ringland Hills was included in Munnings's two most celebrated exhibitions; his first solo exhibition at Norwich Castle in 1928, and his retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1956. The Royal Academy Exhibition included some 60 landscapes, which led his biographer, Reginald Pound to speculate that: ‘His pure landscapes would of themselves have made a reputation. In form, colour and craftsmanship, those leading characteristics of the English school of painting, the best of them showed Munnings to be in the line of direct succession to the English masters... Contemplating them in the Diploma Gallery, along with the best of the gypsy studies and Exmoor ponies, one was forced to the provocative conclusion that the highest prices have been paid for the wrong Munnings pictures, that posterity will honour not the facile remembrancer of briefly celebrated horses and the vanishing panoply of the hunt, but the artist who painted the immemorial glory of the gorse on Ringland Hills’ (R. Pound, The Englishman, A Biography of Sir Alfred Munnings, London, 1962, pp. 212-3).

We grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos for confirming the authenticity of this work, which will be included in her forthcoming Sir Alfred Munnings catalogue raisonné.

More from Little Cassiobury: The Collection of Susan Lyall

View All
View All