Monthly Archives: June 2012

Village and Pasture and the Influence of Alfred Munnings

Pasture scene with English Village

Village and Pasture

8×10, Oil on Canvas

This small painting of my daughter’s horse, Pelee, and pasture mate, Tanner, was directly influenced by a painting by Alfred Munnings called Huntsman and Hounds Crossing a River (1909).  In Munnings Painting, the rider on a bay hunter stands out boldly in the foreground against a muted and lighter background of hounds fording a stream and a golden pasture beyond.  In honor of Munnings, I transported Pelee to England.

 File:AlfredMunnings by HaroldKnight.jpg

 Alfred Munnings Reading Aloud Outside on the Grass, circa 1911, by Harold Knight

I love this painting of Munnings as a young man, and wouldn’t have discovered Harold Knight if I hadn’t been looking for Munnings images.  That’ll be another Blog.

Munnings was a prolfic painter, whose works are scattered about the globe, many of them in private collections.  There is an Alfred Munnings Museum in Dedham, England, which doesn’t seem to have acquired a very large collection yet, at least insofar as I’m able to tell, but could be the first place to head for a looksee, if you happen to be in England.  He created naturalistic paintings by traveling the countryside, recording scenes like these:



Boy and Ponies

The Bush Inn

The Horse Fair

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Zenmore Hill, Cornwall

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Bagsworthy Water at Cloud

He also did many portraits and commissioned paintings, which are truly elegant and prized.

Miss Ruth Brady on Bugle Call

The Clark Sisters

Sir Raymond Greene, MP, on Horseback

The stage play and movie, War Horse, was loosely based on the story of an actual horse named Warrior owned by General Jack Seely from the Isle of Wight.  Seely wrote a memoir about his horse in 1934, which was illustrated by Alfred Munnings.

Seely on Warrior

Munnings himself served in The Great War, though not as a soldier.  He was blind in one eye and was judged unfit to fight, but served with a horse remount division on the Western Front.  He became war artist to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and provides us with an eye-witness view of an historic tragedy, in which a generation of young men were destroyed.

Munnings captured the charm of British rural life at a time when it was in the process of vanishing.  I, personally, don’t find them sentimental.  The loveliness is real, for any who’ve seen the English counryside, and life was largely lived out of doors in a way that is healthier than it is now.

Lord Strathcona’s Horse on the March

Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron

 Munnings captured the charm of British rural life at a time when it was vanishing.  I personally don’t find them sentimental.  The loveliness is real, for those who’ve seen the English countryside, and life was lived out of doors in a way that is healthier than it is now.  Munnings was an opponent of Modern Art.  There is an anecdote about a conversation between him and Winston Churchill in which Churchill asked him, “Alfred, if you met Picasso coming down the street would you join with me in kicking his… something something?” to which Munnings said he replied “Yes Sir, I would.”  Munnings apparently told this anecdote during his departing speech as President of the Royal Academy of Art in 1949, which was broadcastover the radio by the BBC.  He was apparently a little the worse for drink.  (I like him even better for that story.)