The subject of the present portrait is Vivian Hugh Smith (1867–1956), a descendent of the banking family who founded Smith's Bank at Nottingham. Smith was educated at Eton College, where his attendance at Ascot races caused a schoolwide scandal. He was married to Lady Sybil Mary McDonnell, a daughter of the 6th Earl of Antrim. Smith worked for the merchant banking firm of Morgan Grenfell & Co. and spent sixty years as a Director and later as Governor of the Royal Exchange Assurance. He was created a Baron in 1938 and chose his title to name himself after the estate he acquired – Tusmore Park near Bicester in Oxfordshire.
In his autobiography Munnings speaks warmly of his visit to paint Smith, describing his house at the time, Weald Hall in South Weald as 'unlike any other house I had known. It was the growth of centuries', going on to comment that ‘the Smith family were wonders in more ways than one. A stirring life in a live household’ (A.J. Munnings, The Second Burst, Bungay, 1951, pp. 216-17).
Hunting and riding were Smith’s great passions, and he frequently visited Ireland to buy horses. When a hunting accident prevented him from riding he acquired a string of steeplechasers: Silver Fame won the Cheltenham gold cup, and Roimond was placed second in the Grand National. Here, Munnings depicts Smith elegantly dressed in his red coat atop his bay hunter. Smith was painted by other notable artists of the day, including Sir Herbert James Gunn and Sir William Orpen, in 1919, which was sold in these Rooms, 17 May 2001, lot 111.
This work will be included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Sir Alfred Munnings.