Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959) Sketching at Wiston Bridge
Lot 99AR
Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS
(British, 1878-1959)
Sketching at Wiston Bridge
Sold for £ 136,826 (US$ 184,592) inc. premium

Lot Details
Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959) Sketching at Wiston Bridge Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959) Sketching at Wiston Bridge Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959) Sketching at Wiston Bridge
Sir Alfred James Munnings, PRA, RWS (British, 1878-1959)
Sketching at Wiston Bridge
signed 'A J Munnings' (lower right)
oil on canvas
51.5 x 61.5cm (20 1/4 x 24 3/16in).


  • Provenance
    Sir William Reid Dick, KCVO, RA
    Sale, Sotheby's London, 10 February, 1971, lot 46, as Maurice Codner Sketching at Flatford Mill, the Property of the Lady Reid Dick, sold for £500
    with Ian MacNicol, Glasgow
    Private collection, UK
    Thence by descent to the present owner

    London, Royal Academy, 1936, no.19
    London, Royal Academy, Diploma Gallery, Sir Alfred James Munnings Retrospective Exhibition 1956, no.48, property of Sir William Reid Dick
    Venice, Biennale (date unknown) no.45 as Sketch, property of Sir William Reid Dick. (Munnings exhibited works at the Biennale five times between 1924 and 1940)

    Sir Alfred Munnings, The Second Burst: The autobiography of Sir Alfred Munnings, Bungay, 1951 pp. 352-357. Illustrated in black and white, opp. p.337
    Royal Academy Illustrated, 1936, p.96
    A. J. Munnings R.A. Pictures of horses and English life, Second edition, London, 1939, no.46, illustrated in black and white, p.97

    The present lot is a wonderful example of Munnings at his most fluid and free. One of three similar compositions which the artist produced of this subject, the work depicts Munning's great friend Maurice Codner, sketching at Wiston Mill. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1946, the present lot appears to be the version to which the artist refers in his autobiography. One of the other versions, which closes the distance between the artist and the subject, was given to Codner, remaining in the sitter's family until 2008 (see Sotheby's New York, 5 May 2011, lot 78.)

    Situated near the village of Nayland on the River Stour, Wiston Mill is not far from Flatford Mill, subject of many of John Constable's most famous works. Codner and Munnings had encountered Wiston Mill when, along with two fellow artists, they had 'walked in the heat from Nayland to Wiston. Plunging, stark naked, in and out of the river to cool ourselves...when round the bend came a large varnished punt with a colourful, summery party of ladies, quite foreign to us.'

    Munnings makes lengthy reference to the sitting in the second volume of this autobiography:

    'One September... and artist friend, Maurice Codner...came to stay....The spot we chose was attractive and remote enough-down a lane... After trying here and there, Codner settled down to paint the river and luxuriant growth along its banks-its surface thickly grown over with reeds, all glistening in the sun. He sat on rising ground where an old cattle-bridge crossed the stream. I took note of him sitting there at work, with the old bridge and willows in the background. Here was a picture!
    "Codner" said I, "I'm going to paint you sketching."
    "All right" he said. "I'll sit as long as you like".
    I began my usual size canvas- twenty-four by twenty; in two hours the picture was almost completed.'

    The two men revisited the bridge several times to finish the sitting, although Codner's own work was frustrated. On their first return to the spot, the reeds along the river's edge had been cut back: 'Codner looked the picture of misery-frustration and rage written on his countenance. He calmed down, and was willing to sit, although his mind was bent on what he expected to see, and what had disappeared.' On a subsequent visit, 'at the spot where Codner was wont to sit, myself painting him, there, alongside the wooden bridge in the background, stood a large, newly-built military structure. For Codner this was the end of everything. In despair he posed as though he were painting, whist I put the finishing touches of the picture, which only needed pulling together.'

    The piece of white cloth that sits beside Codner's box of paints was, according a letter from Munnings to Codner, 'the tail of my shirt', torn off so Codner could clean his brushes.

    Maurice Frederick Codner, RP, ROI (1888–1958) was born in London, and attended the Colchester School of Art. Under Munnings' influence, Codner was persuaded to give up 'his safety job and risk being a portrait-painter.' Codner enjoyed considerable success as a society portraitist, exhibiting numerous times at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and elsewhere. Among his notable public successes were a portrait of George VI painted in 1951, and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother, which won the silver medal at the Paris Salon in 1954.

    When the present lot was painted Codner was, in Munning's words, 'not so opulent a portrait-painter then as now'. Munnings recalls his first meeting with Codner in his autobiography: 'when I came to Dedham... the Codner family lived in a charming old house. Their friends joined mine and they were my nearest neighbours. In the winter of 1919 I met Maurice Codner out hunting: a tall thin young man on his father's carriage horse. He was in breeches and boots and a bowler hat and wore a moustache...he never dreamed of painting chairmen of city companies and mayors in robes in those days.'

    We are grateful to Lorian Peralta-Ramos for confirming the attribution to Sir Alfred James Munnings on the basis of photographs.

    Sir Alfred Munnings, The Second Burst: The autobiography of Sir Alfred Munnings, Bungay, 1951 , passim.
    Ernest Blaikley, 'Codner, Maurice Frederick (1888–1958)', rev. Robin Gibson, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008
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  1. Peter Rees
    Specialist - 19th Century Paintings
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