Shrimp and Six Ponies on the Ringland Hills is an important early work by the artist, with unbroken provenance from an early patron. It depicts the artist's favourite gypsy model Shrimp on a white Welsh mare, 'with long, curly mane and tail and Arab-looking countenance' (A. J. Munnings An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p,213).
In the summers of 1910 and 1911 Munnings went on extended painting expeditions from his home at Swainsthorpe to the nearby Ringland Hills, making his headquarters at The Falcon Inn at Costessey. 'Ringland and Costessey, on the west side of Norwich are situated in one of the loveliest districts of all the pleasant country surrounding that old city. Although only six to eight miles away, with little perceptible variation, their serenity was unbroken, their peace continuous and unalloyed, the inhabitants living on in the same unaltered ways of life, toiling and resting, their quietude as yet undisturbed by motor horn or sound of tractor' (op. cit., p. 208).
The view from the ridge of the hills across the Wensum valley towards the distant wooded parklands of Taverham Hall was breathtaking. It provided an impressive backdrop to a series of paintings including the present work and also On the Ringland Hills (The Bunting Collection of Works by Sir Alfred Munnings, Christie's London, 12 June 2002, lot 4, £666,250). Munnings wrote, 'I was working in a sort of gravelly hollow. The white ponies stood up against the sky in sunlight, with the distant blue Taverham country across the valley showing beneath their bellies. A splendid subject! I revelled in painting on that sandy brow. What occasional passers-by thought of us from below never struck me. Nobody cared and I was at peace' (op. cit., pp. 217-18).
Shrimp and Six Ponies on the Ringland Hills formed the central motif for The Coming Storm (Royal Academy 1925, where purchased by the National Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) where Shrimp is superimposed on a romantic background of a tented fairground against a dark and brooding sky.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta Ramos for her help in preparing this catalogue entry. The picture will be included in her forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings.