Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)
Helter Skelter signed and dated '1911' (lower left) watercolour and bodycolour with scratching out 44 x 54.3 cm. (17 3/8 x 21 3/8 in.) (unframed)
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner's family
Exhibited: Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, 1911, no.362
Helter Skelter exemplifies Munnings' artistry and vigilant eye for capturing equine movement. The name of this work so clearly describes the scene. It is a masterpiece of observation showing a medley of ponies cresting a hill, in a frenzy of excitement as they are urged forward by Shrimp, a gypsy boy and Munnings' most picturesque model. For over a decade, Munnings explored this theme of horses approaching the viewer at a three-quarter angle, testing his technical acumen of anatomy, the visual mechanics of equine motion and his faultless sense of perspective. This was in direct response to Munnings having seen the renowned Colt Hunting in the New Forest (RA 1897) that earned Lucy Kemp Welch national acclaim. As Munnings states in his memoirs, he originally 'went out to beat it' by painting The Vagabonds (1902, 50 x 80 in. Ex Bunting Collection) and continued with the theme in his series of depicting the scene of the present work. The largest work from this series was Coming through the Gap (30 x 40 in. sold Christie's, June 2002, £1,546,650, Ex Bunting Collection). The present work however is the only picture painted in watercolour.
Munnings watercolours are relatively scarce as he gave up the medium in the early 1920s. He exhibited at the Royal Institute from 1899-1916 and in 1921 he switched to the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours where he exhibited until 1937.
We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos for her assistance in compiling this entry.