Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Mare and Foal signed 'A. J. Munnings R.I.' (lower left) pencil and watercolour 25.5 x 35.5 cm. (10 x 14 in.) Executed circa 1906
PROVENANCE: Col. J.F. Barclay of Aylsham Mr Mase, whom purchased from the above, 1 December 1920 (35 guineas) Mr Ruben Levine, Norwich, 15 June 1925 (46 guineas) With T.F. Mase, Sprowston, Norwich Mr Frank Watts, whom purchased from the above, 1928 (£47.10.0) Thence by descent
Mr Frank Watts commissioned a bronze bust of Alfred Munnings and presented it to the Castle Museum, Norwich where it may still be seen.
Munnings, being a man of the soil, was not only enamoured with images of rural life if it was something he could wholly identify with. Here a young country boy takes a sturdy mare and her foal presumably from one pasture to another. Munnings painted this chestnut mare without her foal, in oil in 1906 (sold Christie's, London, 23 May 2008, lot 71) so the scene or the subjects must have held some significance for him as there are few images in his oeuvre that he repeated in both oil and watercolour.
During the first decade of the 20th century, Munnings embraced the simplicity and innocence of the people, animals and the traditional way of life that existed down the lanes and through the fields of East Anglia. As modernisation was fast encroaching on rural existence, he became highly sensitive to all that went on around him. The rural idyll and the labours of country tradition together with their inextricable bond with nature became worthy of recording for many artists such as Stanhope Forbes.
Munnings was committed to the principals of plein air painting so the spontaneity of the watercolour medium was perfect for capturing the brilliance and transience of colour and light. The warmth of summer sunshine envelopes the scene and Munnings has articulated the sparkle of light on the horses' coats and dense foliage. The long shadows suggest it is perhaps late afternoon as the mare stride and carriage seems weary in juxtaposition to the lively foal that prances beside her.
It is interesting to note that Munnings signed his name with "RI" which designated that he was a member of the Royal Painters in Watercolour. His membership ran from 1899-1916 but 1906 was the first year that he had submitted five works.
This work will appear 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.