SIR ALFRED MUNNINGS
"CHESTNUTS IN BLOOM"
Signed 'A.J. Munnings' bottom right, oil on canvas
25 1/8 x 30 1/4 in. (63.8 x 76.8cm)
Executed circa 1920.
Collection of Sir Harold Gillies, C.B.F., United Kingdom (per label verso).
Christie's, London, sale of March 15, 1985, lot 248.
Frost & Reed Ltd., London, United Kingdom.
Acquired directly from the above at the Radnor Hunt Club Exhibition in October 1985.
Collection of Dorrance H. Hamilton.
British Council Exhibition, Hartford House, England, United Kingdom, 1940.
The son of a mill worker, Sir Alfred Munnings was born in 1878 in Mendham, Suffolk, in England. At the age of fourteen, he became the apprentice of a printer in nearby Norwich and began to produce graphic work and posters; the sureness of line demanded by the process of lithography proving a constant underpinning of technique throughout his artistic career. His skills as a fine artist were further honed while attending The Norwich School of Art in his spare time. A figurative painter who outwardly rejected Modernism, Munnings' style and brushstrokes were influenced by Impressionism, and he used naturalistic colors to depict the English countryside and purlieus. Munnings once asked "What are pictures for? To fill a man's soul with admiration and sheer joy, not to bewilder and daze him." Despite the fact that he lost sight in his right eye due to an accident, Munnings' formidable talent soon became apparent, and from 1899 onwards he would exhibit at the Royal Academy. Favoring rural scenes and representations of gypsy life early in his career, the First World War greatly influenced his preferred subject matter. Although Munnings sought to serve as a soldier during the Great War, he was deemed unfit to fight due to his partial blindness. However, he did serve as War Artist for the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and provided an invaluable historic record of the wartime years.
While Munnings has become acclaimed for his equestrian subjects, landscape painting was one of his first loves, and over the course of his career he repeatedly returned to the subject of natural settings. The bright energy of the present lot is palpable; Munnings uses a rich impasto and warm palette to illustrate chestnut trees bursting with life. The painting was most likely executed in the 1920s, and depicts a view of the lawn and paddocks at 'Castle House' in Dedham, which was once Munnings' home of forty years and is now the location of the Munnings Art Museum. The latter has within their collection a study of the same view, entitled "View at Castle House." The vast green meadow dominates the foreground and gives the feeling of fresh air and an invitation into the verdant composition.
We wish to thank Ms. Jenny Hand at the Munnings Art Museum, Dedham, United Kingdom, for her kind assistance in cataloguing this lot.
Sold for $162,500 (buyer's premium included)