Lot 59
  • 59

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S.

Estimate
250,000 - 350,000 USD
Sold
396,500 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • The Falcon Inn, Costessey
  • signed A.J. Munnings and dated 1910 (upper left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 14 x 18 inches

Provenance

Charles A. Bunting, Norwich and London
Dr. Charles F. Bunting (by descent from the above and sold, Christie's, London, June 12, 2002, lot 7, illustrated)
Richard Green, London
Acquired from the above

Exhibited

Possibly, Bury St. Edmunds, Art Gallery, Loan Collection of Pictures by A.J. Munnings, R.A., August-September 1939, no. 27 (as Boy on Horse)

Catalogue Note

Though he was small in stature, Fountain George Page, a gypsy horse handler working in Norwich in the early 1900s, was one of Sir Alfred Munnings’ most famous models — the aptly nicknamed “Shrimp.”  The artist was first introduced to Shrimp by his employer, the horse dealer James Drake, and upon their meeting Munnings found him an “undersized, tough, artful young brigand” (Sir Alfred Munnings, An Artist’s Life, London, 1950, p. 207).  Though the two had an often-combative relationship, Shrimp, who “slept under the caravan with the dogs, and had no home of his own, no family ties, no parents that he knew” would become “an indispensable model, an inspiring rogue, an annoying villain” for the artist (Munnings, p. 207).  Shrimp prominently appeared in a number of Munnings’ compositions beginning in 1908, and is seen in the present work with his characteristic yellow handkerchief tied around his neck, confidentially riding as he leads ponies with a long, rough rope.  As Munnings explained, meeting Shrimp was a “lucky start” to this phase of his career “making pictures out-of-doors, in the right environment, with the models I needed” (Munnings, p. 211).

Dated 1910, the present work is presumably set just outside The Falcon Inn, located near the Bush Inn, Costessey where Shrimp and Munnings first met, and which became their nightly resting place during excursions through the Ringland Hills that summer. The artist’s early jaunts would expand to longer travels through the English countryside as a vagabond, in a romanticized imitation of the gypsies who fascinated him and inspired many of his most celebrated works. Given the assortment of horses purchased just before and brought along the excursion, it is difficult to say which Munnings portrays in the present work.  Throughout his compositions, Munnings would alter the number of horses and ponies, change the groupings, viewpoints and locations, which enabled him to explore numerous artistic possibilities.  As he explained, "the mere sight of these ponies, coming or going gave me fresh pictures. Like a game of chess, there was no end to it" (Munnings, p. 238).  In the present work, Munning’s naturalistic technique, coupled with impressionistic vigor, infuse the composition with a sense of movement — the loose brushwork and compositional cropping of the horses suggest their swift movement as they move out for the next painting excursion — filling the picture space as they traverse it for the artist’s and the viewer’s view.

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