During the first decade of the 20th century Munnings painted scenes of rural life around the Waveney Valley, a fertile agricultural area on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. As a son of a miller, Munnings could easily identify with the intrinsic existence and character of the local populace and appreciate the rituals of traditional rural life. There is a poignancy and sympathy to his work of this period which he undertook en plein air.
In addition to painting equine subjects and landscapes, Munnings frequently painted other farm animals such as pigs and cows. These were obviously more than just a passing interest since there exist well over thirty canvases that depict cows. Munnings even went as far as to state, 'To my mind, a cow, although perhaps not so romantic and beautiful an animal as the horse, is a better subject for the artist.' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 280). In these paintings of cows, as is evident in the present work, he often explored the effects of sunlight piercing the foliage and its dancing shadows. This was also very much in evidence in Impressions of Cows in a Stream, Lamorna, 1911 was sold at Christie's, New York, 9 December 2004, lot 98 ($119,500).
In the 1900s, Munnings undertook two exhibition works on a large scale using similar compositions to the present work. They depicted local country women walking with ponies across the picture plane with a strong sense of purpose and yet at the same time with the air of calm that surrounds the simple pleasure of a daily routine. Charlotte's Pony (R.A., 1907) shows Charlotte Gray, a gypsy woman leading her chestnut pony and was one of his first attempts at a large-scale en plein air painting. A young girl leading one of his favorite ponies Augureau is the subject of The Path of the Orchard (R.A. 1909) as they walk along a path at the edge of a the river at Mendham. The present work most probably dates from this period.
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos' forthcoming catalogue raisonée of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.