SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, P.R.A., R.W.S., P.R. | GRAVEL PIT IN SUFFOLK
SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, P.R.A., R.W.S., P.R.
GRAVEL PIT IN SUFFOLK
signed l.r.: AJ Munnings
oil on canvas
35 by 46cm., 14 by 18in.
Please note: Condition 11 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot.
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The canvas is unlined and the original canvas is providing a stable structural support for the picture which is in very good condition but should be much enhanced by a surface clean as the paint surface is dirty and discoloured - this could be easily removed by a professional restorer. There are no signs of craquelure and there are areas of rich impasto.
UNDER ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT
There are no signs of retouching.
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 provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour 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 because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.
Purchased directly from the artist and thence by descent to the present owners
The subject of ponies in gravel pits was one that occupied Munnings from 1907 and reached its culmination in 1911 with the large canvas Gravel Pit in Suffolk (Castle Museum, Norwich) which was painted in the hot summer of that year and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1912. The present picture relates closely to Gravel Pit in Suffolk only differing in the shape of the hillside on the horizon and the omission of the reclining groom. Munnings often worked on two canvases simultaneously ‘a lesser one to make sure, should the weather break, and – weather permitting – the larger work being carried on, too, each getting a spell off to harden. The advantage of such a method is you gain a stride now in this one, now in that’ (Alfred Munnings, An Artist’s Life, 1950, pp.197-8)
The setting is the sand and gravel pits near Spring Farm in Hoxne on the Norfolk and Suffolk border. It was here that Munnings painted a series of pictures, including Ponies in a Sandpit, Ringland Hills of 1911 (The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum). The white pony in both pictures is Auguereau, Munnings’ favourite horse which appears in many paintings of this period, often alongside chestnut ponies to emphasise the white of his coat glowing in the intense summer sunlight. Augereau was bought by Munnings from a horse-trader named Drake around 1906. He was named by Munnings after seeing a matinee performance of a play called 'A Royal Divorce' in which a character continuously exclaims, "I swear it on the word of an Augereau." Driving the pony home after the theatre late at night, whenever the pony misbehaved, Munnings and his groom would correct him and exclaim, "I swear it on the word of an Augereau!". Augereau, wrote Munnings, 'was the most picturesque of white ponies – an artist’s ideal. A white horse has been used in many pictures by many artists. Augereau’s name may go down to posterity as the last of his disappearing race to pose as a model for a picture.’ (Alfred Munnings, An Artist's Life, 1950, p.199) The boy in the present picture was Munnings’ groom ‘Shrimp’ who was described as a young man who ‘slept under the caravan with the dogs, and had no family of his own, no family ties, no parents that he knew. This son of the wild went by the name of Shrimp... little did I dream that he would one day become for me an indispensible model, an inspiring rogue, and an annoying villain... He was a paintable figure... and the best model I ever had’ (op.cit. p. 207, 211, 217).