Like generations of young and ambitious artists before him, Munnings eschewed city life and, in the years leading up to The Great War, settled in an artists' colony. He chose Lamorna in West Cornwall, curious to see the country which had attracted the famous community of painters of the Newlyn School. There he lived alongside likeminded artists such as Laura and Harold Knight, Lamorna Birch, Harold Harvey and Dodd Proctor as well as the 'father' of the community Stanhope Alexander Forbes, whose light-filled canvases inspired the young artist.
In his memoirs Munnings fondly remembered '...those days before motor traffic brought sight-seers and countless visitors to Cornwall, lodgings were cheap; farm butter and clotted cream were in abundance; no electric pylons or posts straddled the moors or lined the roads; no sounds of motor horns disturbing the villages’ (A.J. Munnings, An Artist’s Life, Bungay, 1950, pp. 275-6). This period in the artist’s career was immortalised in the book and subsequent film, Summer in February.
Munnings was a keen huntsman and rode with the Western Foxhounds. Colonel William (Willy) Bolitho was Master and 'A few farmers, a dealer, a butcher, a doctor or two and a lawyer made up the field - all the best of friends' (Munnings, op. cit., p. 285). Inspired by his experiences in the field, the artist painted a series of hunting subjects set against Cornwall's woods, moors and cliffs. His model for many of these works was a local boy called Ned Osborne, who is often depicted on his favourite hunter, Grey Tick.
Zennor, on the north coast of Cornwall, not far from St. Ives, was a favoured setting for Munnings to paint: 'being in granite country, where the soil was shallow, huge masses of stone were built into walls...it was the most picturesque and primitive place' (ibid., p. 275). He lived in Zennor village during these painting expeditions, immersing himself in the landscape. His bold compositions and broad, confident brushwork mirrors the barren and untamed landscape.
We are grateful to the Curatorial staff at The Munnings Art Museum for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.