Lot 73
  • 73

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

Estimate
300,000 - 500,000 USD
Sold
372,500 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Portrait of Mr. Bayard Tuckerman
  • signed A.J. Munnings (lower right)
  • oil on canvas laid on board

Provenance

Mr. Bayard Tuckerman, Jr. (commissioned from the artist in 1924)
By descent through the family to the present owner 

Literature

Sir Alfred Munnings, The Second Burst, London, 1951, p. 166

Catalogue Note

In 1924, Munnings left England for his only trip to the United States, a whirlwind six month itinerary he remembered as “gloriously mad days” full of painting and parties (Munnings, p. 160). Munnings made the crossing on the ocean liner Berengaria , where he met American millionaire Frederick Prince— who invited the artist to the Boston area to paint equestrian portraits of himself and his family.  Munnings first visited New York, Washington, and Pittsburgh (where he was enlisted by Homer St. Gauden, the Director of the Carnegie Institute, as a judge of the Twenty-Third Annual International Exhibition), painting various members of the American elite (Joseph Bailio, “Munnings in America,” Alfred J. Munnings 1878-1959, exh. cat. Wildenstein, New York, 1983, n.p.). He later joined the Prince family on their estate at Pride’s Crossing, Massachusetts, where he expanded his portrait commissions to their fellow members of the South Hamilton’s Myopia Hunt Club— the first being Mr. and Mrs. Bayard Tuckerman.

Munnings first painted Mrs. Tuckerman (see lot 72), and the result so impressed her husband that he requested his portrait as gentleman whip of the Hunt on a grey, his beloved Powder Puff, accompanied by hounds -- the selection of which inspired debate.  According, to Munnings the “Myopia pack had a sprinkling of.., white hounds from Wales. They had whiskers, ears and tails like otter-hounds” and while their keen senses were an important asset in the rough terrain of the New England hunt, the artist found the animals disruptive to his aesthetic— refusing to include them until Tuckerman insisted.  As the present work evidences, the result was a compromise: Munnings used “the smooth, good looking foxhounds around the house and the Welsh breed farther away” (Munnings, p. 166).

The push-pull dialogue between artist and patron points to both the inspiration and challenge of portrait painting, which began to dominate Munnings’ production in the 1920s. Following the tremendous success of his paintings of the hunt staff, hounds and horses of Major Tommy Busch, Master of the Belvoir Hunt at Belvoir Castle in 1921, the artist was inundated with commissions from English aristocrats and American industrialists and financiers (Claudia Pfeiffer, “Munnings, Out in the Open,” Munnings Out in the Open, exh. cat., National Sporting Library & Museum, Middleburg, Virginia, 2013, pp.51, 101). While the artist’s earlier hunting subjects relied on borrowed models (often his grooms or friends) dressed up in the scarlet coat and velvet cap of the foxhound, the equestrian portrait posed a series of challenges to work out to the mutual satisfaction of artist and sitter.  As Munnings explained, the “professional portrait-painter has only his sitters to deal with… A painter of equestrian portraits has to begin with the portrait and the figure, with the right seat on the horse…  Then comes the horse, then the sky and background” (Munnings, p. 210).  With the Portrait of Bayard Tuckerman, Munnings brilliantly balances each element of the composition, employing an expressive series of swipes and dabs of layered pigments to not only describe but physically form the fields and hills beyond, while repeating shades of blue, white, ochre, and pale purple build up the sky and the grey’s glossy coat.  Mr. Tuckerman is captured in a calm and almost contemplative moment as he rides alongside his hounds at work, and the long, straight lines of his coat and detailed profile are both finely realized— proving the artist could describe the character of his human subject with as much success as the equine.

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