Lot 61
  • 61

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

125,000 - 175,000 USD
225,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • The Horse Fair
  • signed A.J. Munnings and dated 1905 (lower left)
  • watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper
  • 12  1/2  x 17  3/4  inches


Private Collection
Sale: Sotheby's, London, June 2, 2004, lot 1, illustrated
Richard Green, London
Acquired from the above

Catalogue Note

Although Alfred Munnings' watercolors are relatively rare, the artist worked frequently in the medium from his art student days and until the early 1900s.  A box of watercolors provided Munnings portability and spontaneity; he was able to store the quick-drying pigments and light paper in his caravan as he travelled through the English countryside painting en plein air. The fluidity and saturation of the medium enabled him to vividly capture colorful and expressive characters he encountered in the English countryside.  

Munnings was a regular at the East Anglian Saturday horse fairs, not just as a buyer, but also an observer.  Changing his equestrian models every couple of months, he became a familiar figure among the dealers and the various colorful characters who frequented these gatherings.  Munnings delighted in the banter of the fair and capitalized on the  easy availability of models, humorously describing a few of his favorite models in his autobiography: "And there they were for the asking.  They loved posing, and still better, they loved seeing a sovereign or a pint of beer" (Sir Alfred James Munnings, An Artist's Life, London, 1950, p. 113).  

The identities of the models in the present work have yet to be identified, but Munnings' lengthy recollections of the village models in his autobiography further illustrate his personal connection to the colorful characters from "the young, aged or loafing fraternity not engaged in regular work," (Munnings, p. 110) who provided him with endless inspiration.  According to Munnings, there was "Dan Betts...who wore small silver earrings, and shaved off his moustache for me to put him in a picture, and became so transfigured that his wife and children didn't know him. A kind man and father."  There was also "Pod and Ned Aldous, types bred in every village since the Stone Age, and another of the same cut—Porky Emmerson—were always ready, if about, to do anything in the standing or sitting in line for a pint." Finally, there was Harry Seaman, a decent fellow, "who later looked after the horses and ponies that I collected" (Munnings, p. 111-2).