SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, P.R.A., R.W.S. | FIVE RACEHORSES WITH JOCKEYS UP
Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone
SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, P.R.A., R.W.S.
1878 - 1959
FIVE RACEHORSES WITH JOCKEYS UP
signed A.J. Munnings (lower right); inscribed To Tom Slocombe / Given by Violet Munnings / five race horses + / jockies mounted / 1960 (on a label on the reverse)
oil on board
board: 14 by 26 in.; 35.5 by 66 cm
framed: 19½ by 31½ in.; 49.5 by 80 cm
We would like to thank Lorian Peralta-Ramos, author of the forthcoming Tradition and Modernity: The Works of Sir Alfred Munnings, for confirming the authenticity of this work.
The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.:
This work is in beautiful condition. The panel on which it is painted is flat and stable. The paint layer is clean and varnished. There are no retouches. There is one small unrestored loss in the sky to the left of the jockey on the far left that should be addressed. The work should otherwise be hung in its current state.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
Lady Violet Munnings (acquired directly from the artist, her husband)
Tom Slocombe (gifted by the above, 1960, and sold, Sotheby's, London, December 15, 1971, lot 56)
Arthur Ackermann & Son Ltd., London
“I am standing on the course - the most beautiful course in the world: cloudless October sky, a faint wind from the east.... I am looking at the scene, the old, old scene - a centuries old scene. Horses come up the course looking like those of years ago....Bright colors in the sun just the same as of yore.... What a sight for the artist! with the long shadows and the lights on the boots, lights on the horses.... This is the best picture I have ever seen...” (Alfred Munnings, The Finish, London, 1952, pp.216-17).
Celebrated as the most brilliant and innovative painter of horses since George Stubbs, Sir Alfred J. Munnings returned often to the spontaneity of race day. He was first struck by the colors and drama of the sport in 1899 when he attended country races at Bungay to celebrate his first two pictures being accepted to the Royal Academy. His compositions often focused on the intimacy of race day, from the energy of early morning exercising to the excitement and nervousness of saddling up and the pageantry of riding out to the start. By the Second World War, the start of a race became a principal focus of Munnings’ art, and between 1940 and 1959 he included a painting, whether a sketch or finished oil, of the subject in virtually every Royal Academy show. Munnings frequently described the different “Starts” that he witnessed in the autobiography on which he was working concurrently, and he ruefully acknowledged the frustrations he faced in getting the specific character of these always unique moments onto canvas. Photographs of Munnings in his studio from these years often show him with two or three distinctive “Starts” and the supporting studies arranged around him.
Although started as a sketch, Five Racehorses with Jockeys Up holds its own as a complete picture. Five jockeys, in variously brilliant racing silks, are framed by rolling English hills and grey-blue sky. They are presumably gathered near an unknown starting line, depicted in a moment of calm anticipation before the race begins. Despite the quickly finished nature of this study, the artist’s keen appreciation for the individuality and personality of each horse is exhibited in the direct gaze of the central chestnut and the varied movements of the other horses.
According to a pencil inscription on the reverse, the present work was a gift from the artist’s widow, Violet, to Tom Slocombe, Munnings’s groom and one of his most recognizable models.