Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959) Horse and rider 24.9 x 33.5 cm. (9 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.)
Lot 33AR
Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959) Return from the Fair 24.9 x 33.5 cm. (9 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.)
Sold for £91,250 (US$ 142,788) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (British, 1878-1959)
Return from the Fair
signed and dated 'A.J. Munnings/1903' (lower right)
watercolour
24.9 x 33.5 cm. (9 3/4 x 13 1/4 in.)

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Acquired prior to 1920, probably by John McConnel, Manchester
    Thence by descent to The Duchess of Wellington
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    In the first years of the 20th century Munnings painted scenes of rural life, which are poignant documentations of England prior to modern agricultural practices. Horses were not only an inseparable part of the landscape they were essential to that bygone life. Munnings repeated the theme of horses being led between pastures, travelling to and from fairs, or going home from the fields after a days work.

    It has been said that Munnings' art was an extension of his life and being a son of a miller, he was intimately familiar with these agricultural labourers and their horses. Munnings has depicted a weary soul, slack in the saddle as he plods along on his bay mount who is nonplussed by the more spirited white horse.

    The difference in the two horses' head carriage is telling. The robust white horse has its head raised and it is swishing its tail. One might assume that the flicking tail and the raised mane is from a sudden revolt against being led. Even its nose is sucked in which can indicate a temporary feistiness or even stubbornness. It is these individual traits that superbly illustrate Munnings' sound understanding of equine behaviour and this knowledge was used to great effect in later years in his renowned pictures of racing starts.

    The present watercolour is a similar composition to the oil Return from the Fair (see Sotheby's, 13 March 1974, lot 50). Munnings would often record a scene in watercolour first as that medium allowed spontaneity to capture the transient light effects and movement.

    Munnings was a successful watercolour painter and exhibited regularly at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour from 1899-1906 (R.I.) and at the Royal Society of Watercolour Painters (R.W.S.) from 1921-1937.

    As the present work eloquently illustrates, Munnings was a master at revealing the individual personalities of his horses. No subject regardless of how simple or aristocratic was just 'a person sitting on a horse' or just 'a horse carrying a rider'. Each one is a specific individual horse. Even though this appears to be a charming rural scene, it can be seen as an insightful portrait of two working horses.

    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.
Auction information

The 29 May sale was the departments most successful auction to date making almost £5m.

Furthermore, it was 90% sold by value with some staggering results achieved for fresh, competitively priced material sourced from private collections. Over half of sold lots soared above their high estimates, indicating that Bonhams is best positioned to secure the best price for your Modern British & Irish Art.

The variety on offer within this genre continues to delight buyers, proven by exceptional results for post-war masters such as Auerbach, Scully, Hockney and Freud whilst the early-mid century examples by Spencer, Lavery, Burra and Moore also exceeded expectation. We were proud to break our own world auction record twice over in the same sale for a pencil drawing by L.S. Lowry. Agecroft Regatta sold for £211,250, pipping The Organ Grinder (£151,250) to the title. The sculpture and Irish content were similarly contended for by the packed saleroom and busy telephones.

The cover lot Garden Path, Cookham Rise by Sir Stanley Spencer fetched an impressive £769,250 while the much admired Oil-bound Puffin by Lucian Freud commanded £385,250 on the day, with both returning to private collections.

We are delighted to now invite consignments for the forthcoming auction on 20 November 2013.

Please contact a member of the department or visit the sale webpage for further information.

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AR Artists Resale Right

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