Munnings was a master in watercolor technique and regularly exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolors (1899-1916) and the Royal Society of Watercolor Painters (1921-1937). Although the subject of the present work is a calm moment whilst the huntsman watches over his hounds as they seek out a scent, he has given movement and vigor to the landscape through his impressionistic technique.
Munnings painted hunting scenes in watercolor from about 1903 until 1913. By 1912, he had moved from his native East Anglia to Cornwall and took two of his hunters with him. The horse in the present work is probably Munnings' own horse, 'a dark brown six-year-old mare, fifteen hands three inches high and with a cock tail ... Good-natured to the last degree, she served as a hack, hunter and model ... and was described as a 'good un'' (Sir A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, pp. 183-4). She was also the model for The Huntsman noted by Munnings as 'an exact portrait of my friend of yore, the brown mare' (ibid p. 274 and illustrated after p. 200).
Munnings moved from Swainsthorpe, near Norwich to the artists' colony at Lamorna, Cornwall in 1911. 'In 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; no great char-a-bancs took up the whole of a narrow road, forcing unfortunate people to retire to some wider space or pull in a gateway whilst they sailed past. All was serenity and peace' (ibid, pp. 275-76). A great hunting enthusiast, Munnings 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' (ibid 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 these works was a local boy called Ned Osborne. 'I found a new lad, a primitive Cornish youth. Ned was the name of this simple soul, who grew into a useful combination of groom-model and posed for many a picture'. He 'had the right-coloured face and figure for a scarlet coat and a black cap. Often did the patient fellow sit as model for me, and he liked it' (ibid, pp. 272-73).
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works by Sir Alfred Munnings.