A Flash of Scarlet, painted near the artist's home at Church Farm in Swainsthorpe in 1907, is one of Munnings's earliest hunting scenes. The composition was to become one of his favourites; a single central huntsman in the foreground either in cover, as in the present work, or on a hillside against the open sky. Munnings used this formula many times, Huntsman in Cover a large canvas from the same date formed part of one of the most important early private collections of Munnings's work, that of James Hardy of Norwich, which was then sold at Christie's, London, 9 November 1989, lot 58, for £60,000.
The sitter for A Flash of Scarlet is most likely to be George Curzon, a groom-cum-model employed by Munnings during his years at Church Farm, and the model for many of his hunting pictures, 'George Curzon was the high-sounding name of my new groom at Swainsthorpe. Never was a master, calling himself an artist, better understood or served. Winter mornings and afternoons passed as, dressed in scarlet he posed on a horse. At last I was seeing the colour of a scarlet coat in the sun, the sheen of a clipped horse, with the lighting on fences, tree-trunks, fields' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 195.).
The horse in the present work is probably Rebecca, the dark brown mare, fifteen hands three inches high, which Munnings had bought from his friend the Norwich horse dealer, Richard Bullard. The purchase of the horse was to be the beginning of Munnings's life-long obsession with hunting, 'Some weeks later I called on Dick Bullard to see his horses. He lived in a small house adjoining a small stableyard. Horses were lodged in every corner, and it was plain to see that Bullard was no millionaire ... It was here, eventually, that I bought the mare. Thirty-five guineas was a large sum to me. However, after much hesitation and calling again to ride the animal and obtaining a veterinary's certificate, I finally paid the sum, and the mare was mine. A more willing or sounder creater never lived. I wonder I never rode the animal off her legs. There were days when I lived on her back ... During the last winter at Mendham I cautiously began to appear at meets of Lord Stradbroke's Harriers. These hunted the most rural arable district in East Anglia: heavy land, deep ditches, thick fences, small farms and small fields ... Thus began a phase which I did not attempt to resist - the vain glories of the chase' (op. cit, pp. 183-184).
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.