Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Gypsy ponies signed 'A.J.Munnings' (lower right) oil on canvas 35.5 x 46 cm. (14 x 18 in.)
PROVENANCE: With Mrs George, 1928 Sale; Christie's, London, 11 November 1986, lot 150 Private Collection, U.K.
EXHIBITED: Norwich, Castle House Museum, Munnings Exhibition, no.51
Munnings frequently experimented with the arrangement of ponies walking down a lane at dusk. The flat and fading light mutes the tones of the scene so that the focus is mainly on the motifs that the ponies made. He would alter whether the ponies were coming or going away from the viewer, sometimes adding the element of a reflective puddle. One picture with the pooling water is in the collection of the Ipswich Borough Council Museum and Galleries and is illustrated in Suffolk Artists of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, by Josephine Walpole on page 143.
Munnings also experimented with low light compositions to minimize the tonality of the piece. This may have been in response to his early training which stressed "the all-important business of relation of one thing to another" (Alfred J Munnings, An Artist's Life, 1950, p.68).
The scruffy ponies used as models were generally purchased from a horse dealer in Norwich and then Munnings would travel with this motley band through East Anglia from Norwich to Scole, stopping at desired painting spots. It is through these summertime journeys, living weeks on end with these creatures that Munnings perfected his knowledge and understanding of the horse which groomed him for this mastery of the equestrian portraiture from which later launched his career.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos and we are grateful to her for compiling this catalogue entry.