Landscape painting was Alfred Munnings’s first love and throughout his life he made landscape oil sketches, emulating his great East Anglian predecessor, John Constable. These works contrast the soft, fresh greens of spring with the yellow of gorse and the white of May blossom. In 1910-11 Munnings made painting expeditions on the Ringland Hills near Norwich with the gypsy boy Shrimp, a caravan and a string of ponies. Munnings later wrote: ‘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’ (An Artist’s Life, London, 1950, p. 212).
Gorse features in such paintings as Fetching the brown pony, 1911 (private collection; London, Sotheby’s, An English Idyll: a Loan Collection of Works by Sir Alfred Munnings, 2002, no. 27, illustrated in colour) and Donkeys in the Ringland Hills, 1911 (private collection; S. Booth, Sir Alfred Munnings 1878-1959, London 1986, no. 22, illustrated in colour). In the present works Munnings concentrates on the qualities of the gorse itself rather than subordinating them to pictures of horses. He has filled the foregrounds, bursting with a spiky energy and colour which is matched by his rich, complex impasto.
These paintings will be included the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos.