'A valley with meadows by the river for the horses and ponies was an ideal painting ground; an open air studio' is how Munnings nostalgically recalled his painting trips in the Wensum valley just a few miles west of Norwich. He made the Falcon Inn at Costessey his base and from here set off to the Ringland Hill with his trusty model and groom 'Shrimp'.
Summer afternoon on the Wensum, Costessey is a plein-air tour de force imbued with colour, light and atmosphere. It was included in Munnings's two most celebrated exhibitions; his first solo exhibition at Norwich Castle in 1928, and his retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1956. The latter included 309 pictures of which 60 were landscapes, which led his biographer, Reginald Pound to speculate that:
'His pure landscapes would of themselves have made a reputation. Contemplating them in the Diploma Gallery, along with the best of the gypsy studies and Exmoor ponies, one was forced to the provocative conclusion that the highest prices have been paid for the wrong Munnings pictures, that posterity will honour not the facile remembrancer of briefly celebrated horses and the vanishing panoply of the hunt, but the artist who painted the immemorial glory of the gorse on Ringland Hills.' (R. Pound, The Englishman; A Biography of Sir Alfred Munnings, London, 1962, pp. 212-3).
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.