Painted only two years after the end of the First World War, in which Munnings was an official War Artist (see lot 32), The Green Meadow compares to other fresh, plein-air compositions of the same period incorporating one of Munnings's favourite themes, gypsies. The location of the picture is unknown, but Munnings indicated in the catalogue accompanying his 1956 Royal Academy exhibition that it was in Hampshire where he painted gypsies and hop-pickers at Binstead from 1913 into the 1920s. He was introduced to the subject through his friend Olive Branson, another artist who every September would travel there in a gilded caravan to paint the hop-picking activities. From the beginning, Munnings was captivated by their colour and nomadic life and befriended many of the families. Picturesque adults, black-eyed children, dogs of all varieties, colourful ponies and horses all mingled together 'standing along the hedges on each side were caravans of all shape, sizes and descriptions: round, Romany, beehive tents; old army bell-tents. There were at least two to three hundred souls' (A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 288).
Munnings painted the gypsies in their camps or, as in the present picture, working with horses, so vital to their way of life for transport, or for horse trading. The gypsies's keen camaraderie and bond with the horse was legendary.
The structure of the painting mirrors that of Arrival at Epsom Downs for Derby Week from 1920 (Birmingham City Art Gallery, Birmingham) with figures leading horses from left to right, a large open sky and free brush strokes typifying Munnings's contribution to British Impressionism.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta Ramos for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. The painting will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings.