Saddling up is closely related to a larger picture, Point-to-Point, 1927 (Stoke-on-Trent Art Gallery, on loan to the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, Dedham). Probably painted in the same year, Saddling Up recalls a group of pictures which were inspired by a visit to the Belvoir Hunt in 1920. Munnings met the Master of the Belvoir, Major Bouch at a lunch hosted by Sir Raymond Greene and was invited to paint at Woolsthorpe. The trip involved complicated arrangements, 'but, for all that, I wanted to be painting the English scene' the artist wrote (The Second Burst, Bungay, 1951, p. 70). Woolsthorpe offered him everything that he loved painting: panoramic landscapes, hounds, horses, Hunt servants and days spent in the company of friends and benefactors.
Saddling Up is one of the artist's great set-piece scenes of the inter-war period. The Master is placed slightly off-centre with several attendant huntsman distributed at focal points. The groom on the left holding the horse blanket is in a pose seen in many other compositions (see for example Saddling Mahmoud, the Derby Winner, 1936, private collection) and on the right, balancing the picture, are the wheels of a back of a carriage. These elements are united by the figures walking across the background. Munnings uses essentially simple motifs to capture a moment, but, interestingly rather than the point-to-point itself, he has chosen the preparation of the event. He gives us a perfect document of the time, a snap-shot of life in the 1920s. As in Barrowby Hill Point-to-Point (sold Christie's, New York, 25 May 1994, lot 310) we too are the bystanders, waiting for the start. Munnings wrote of the excitement, 'What of the scene on Barrowby Hill, with the stage all set for the Point-to-Point? ... Hunt servants and second horsemen in scarlet, well mounted, keeping the course free. Burgess, the second horsemen - one of my models - looking the part in a new scarlet coat, on a good-looking grey for which the Master paid a good figure' (op. cit., p. 74).
Munnings was inspired by the infinite possibilities that the conventional view offered him, and Saddling Up is the consummate example, his favourite grey horses, the members of the hunt in their pink and the social conventions of the point-to-point with its quintissential Englishness.