Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S.
- The Gypsy Camp—Evening
- signed AJ Munnings (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- Image: 19 3/4 x 23 3/4 inches
Framed: 25 3/4 x 29 3/4 inches
Arthur Ackermann & Son, London
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, October 10, 1973, lot 76, illustrated
Richard Green, London
Sale: Fasig-Tipton and Cross Gate Gallery, Saratoga Springs, August 8, 1997, lot 113
Acquired at the above sale
Brilliantly painted gypsy wagons and Romany horse trainers appear as local details in Munnings’ works as early as 1902. Beginning in 1913, Munnings journeyed to Hampshire, where for six weeks he painted the picturesque wagons, colorful characters, and omnipresent animals and children of the itinerant farm hands who travelled here every autumn to harvest hops. He later described his memorable experience: “More glamour and excitement were packed into those six weeks than a painter could well contend with. I still have visions of brown faces, black hair, earrings, black hats and black skirts; of lithe figures of women and children, of men with lurcher dogs and horses of all kinds. I still recall the never-ceasing din around their fires as the sun went down, with blue smoke curling amongst the trees. I think of crowded days of work – too swiftly gone.” (Alfred Munnings, An Artist’s Life, London, 1950, p. 287). Such an atmosphere is evoked in the present work depicting a family of gypsies leisurely gathered under a twilight sky near a campfire, from which rise vibrant flames and blue smoke.
Munnings was fascinated with these traveling people, also known as hop pickers, and the life they lead in their camps, and returned to paint them every autumn for nearly fifteen years. Fully absorbing himself with gypsy life, he purchased several ponies, a donkey, and “a long, shallow cart, of the kind so often seen with a gypsy family, with brass-bound harness and all complete, for fifty shillings” (Munnings, p. 215). Together with his hired gypsy lad, Shrimp, the artist roamed the countryside with paints and canvases in this horse-drawn and painted caravan, stopping where a subject presented itself and spending his evenings camping out. By living the life of the gypsy, Munnings was able to personalize their way of life in his compositions.