The exact date when Munnings initially moved to Cornwall is uncertain. He states in his memoirs that he first visited during the summer of 1910 or 1911. As he was never a studio man he was curious to see the country that had attracted the famous community of painters of the Newlyn School in the 1890s and the new wave of painters in the first decade of the century. He was eager to paint en plein air pursuing the light's effects, a key element of the Newlyn School of painting.
Munnings was certainly settled on the south coast at Lamorna by 1912. He would journey up to the north coast towards Zennor, north of Treen, and hunt with the Western Hounds based at Madron which gave him many an inspiration. He was attracted to the wild, almost treeless, stone-walled, Neolithic landscape of Cornwall which was so very different to the 'vistas of hedgerow oaks and elm, woodlands, cornfields and low meadows' (see A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 271). 'Being in granite country, where the soil was shallow, huge masses of stone were built into walls; every wall on each side of every lane consisted of huge slabs of split granite ... it was the most picturesque and primitive place (ibid. p. 275).
Against the backdrop of rugged granite Munnings places one of his grey mares in contrast to the masses of dark rock. Yet, the horse's coat, instead of remaining white, reflects the brown tones of the rock and harmoniously blends into the scene.
Painting outdoors required a quick but deliberate hand, and Munnings has captured the flurry of activity of the hounds as they scurry around the rocks. With syncopated strokes of paint he finds the essence of movement which animates the entire scene.
The whip was the seventeen-year-old, Ned Osborne who was 'a primitive Cornish youth, a simple soul, who grew into a useful combination of groom-model, and posed for many a picture'. He features in almost all of Munnings's hunting pictures from this period up until the First World War. 'He had the right coloured face and figure for a scarlet coat and black cap. Often did this patient fellow sit as a model for me and he liked it' (ibid. pp. 272-73).
The present work will be included in the catalogue raisonné of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos.