Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959) Woodcutting in October 45.5 x 61 cm. (18 x 24 in.)
Lot 55* AR
Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S.
(British, 1878-1959)
Woodcutting in October 45.5 x 61 cm. (18 x 24 in.)
Sold for £79,250 (US$ 107,059) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Woodcutting in October
signed and dated 'A. J Munnings/99' (lower left)
oil on canvas
45.5 x 61 cm. (18 x 24 in.)


    Purchased by Dr. Robinson in 1901
    Thence by family descent

    London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1901,

    Sir Alfred J Munnings, An Artist's Life, Museum Press Ltd, London, 1950, p.137

    The present lot is accompanied by two original letters from Sir Alfred Munnings, dated 23rd and 31st January 1945 respectively, to Dr Frederick Norton Haylock Maidment discussing Woodcutting in October in greater detail. Dr. Maidment joined Dr. Robinson in practice upon the retirement of Dr. Candler by 1912. Following the death of Dr. Robinson circa 1915 from a horse riding accident, Dr. Maidment was married to his daughter, Bertha Robinson.

    As the letters discuss, Dr. George Candler and Dr. Robinson, who was the original purchaser of the work, were in partnership as general medical practitioners in Harleston, Suffolk, a market town next to Mendham. Dr. Candler, whose family members had been doctors in the area for many years, owned a white pony which had been lent to Munnings as a model. The relationship with Dr. Candler and the episode with the white pony is recollected by Munnings in An Artist's Life under the chapter 'The Doctor's White Pony' (p.95). Depicting two cousins, Nina and Cecil, and incorporating a complex use of light, this picture featuring Dr. Candler's white pony was given the title An Old Favourite and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1900 (no.391). Clearly a painting of exceptional quality, An Old Favourite was sold at auction for $2,972,500 in 1999.

    Woodcutting in October depicts part of the Mendham marshes by the River Waveney, an area with whose people, landscape and traditions the artist was intimately acquainted. The woodcutter himself poses with a chopper as he trims the long poles cut from the grove of pollard willows along the bend of the river in what Munnings describes as the 'North Meadow'. Writing about the present work in An Artist's Life, Munnings recalls the work was hung in the Gem Room at the Royal Academy and that 'the loveliness of that clear, low, October sunlight on the figure at work by the river was beyond even a Sargent' (p.138).

    Munnings painted more than one image of a woodcutter during this period and despite his original letter alluding to the present work having been exhibited in 1903 (he did exhibit The Woodcutter this year); this error is corrected in the second letter where he acknowledges the date of 1901. This amendment also changes the woodcutter himself from 'Old Norman' to Harry Butcher (referred to as Walter Butcher in An Artist's Life), the son of an old pig-man. The intriguing details of the letters also reveal that Woodcutting in October was not originally signed and dated by the artist but that he committed to do so after the war. Munnings' clear recollection of Woodcutting in October is illustrated by the sketch that forms the final page of his first letter, executed some forty five years later from his cottage on Exmoor.

    This work will appear in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos and we are grateful for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the frame for this work is on loan and not included as part of the lot.
Auction information

Bonhams' November sale achieved a number of high profile records, including the highest price in London that week within a sale of Modern British Art - Allies by Lawrence Holofcener fetched an impressive £409,250. The department are especially proud to have secured a new world auction record for Walter Richard Sickert. Painted circa 1904, Woman in Profile with Downcast Eyes was discovered in Australia and following intense bidding realised £229,250. Irish Art fared well too, with Paul Henry's charming Old-Age Pensioners going for £109,250 while Colin Middleton's iconic Muriel fetched £70,850 – both finding Irish buyers.

The next auction will take place on 29 May and closes for entry in April. Already consigned are museum quality works that are fresh to market by LS Lowry, FE McWilliam and Edward Seago, among others.

For confidential advice or valuations please contact a member of the department. Our London-based specialists travel throughout the UK and in 2013 and will also be visiting locations including Ireland, South Africa, US, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia.

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  1. Penny Day
    Specialist - Modern British and Irish Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8366
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