Langham Mill Pool is an extraordinary example of British Impressionism. In this exceptional work Munnings establishes himself squarely in the company of the masters, Monet and Sargent, with his spontaneous ability to capture the brilliance of the light, the magical and fleeting colours of nature, the energy and tension of the atmosphere, and to brilliantly do so with the elegant simplicity of each efficient brushstroke.
Modern in sensibility, Impressionist in style, and unparalleled in sheer beauty, Langham Mill Pool is a rare example of Munnings’ masterful ability to break the mould of convention, and paint that which he valued above all else, his own very special place in nature.
The inescapable acknowledgement of this atmospheric painting to Monet’s The Waterlily Pond is only enhanced by its authenticity and the importance of this view in the life of, and to the creative spirit of Munnings, England’s master Impressionist. Sadly, the other similar square format fully finished oil painting of Langham Mill Pool belonged to the Arts Club, London, and was destroyed in the Second World War (illustrated in An Artist’s Life, opposite p. 113).
'[It is] an almost perfect rendering of the green and gold gaiety of a late spring day, its effects of light and air space seized with an intensity of vision that seemed to make the canvas quiver’ (R. Pound, The Englishman, London, 1962, p 36). The beauty of nature’s majestic display of changing patterns in the same East Anglian environment also captivated the great landscape artist, John Constable. This work more importantly illustrates Munnings’ focus on the animation of nature’s elements and his fascination with capturing its ever-fleeting movement. With a flurry of brushstrokes, Munnings creates the illusion that the water ripples, the tips of trees and pond grass flutter, and Constable back-lit clouds billow, endlessly altering shape, as the wind blows across the scene. He wielded his brush in an expressive fashion that matched the spontaneity of the moment itself.
The close vantage point suggests his direct involvement with the landscape as he alternates elements and layers of different textures to invite the viewer into the scene, which was less than three miles from his home. He was a staunch proponent of en plein-air painting and, like the French Impressionist painters, he captures the salient qualities of form while conjuring the dramatic atmosphere of light, air, and colour. Sir Alfred Munnings' Impressionist artistry is clearly evident in this masterful work. Judged as a British Impressionist painting, this work is truly a visual and emotional triumph.
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.