Munnings rarely depicted horses and riders from the front, usually choosing a side-on angle. In December Morning, Cornwall Munnings very successfully managed to depict the drama and movement of the oncoming animals and rider from a difficult view-point. It seems that he may have been inspired by the success of another Cornish resident, Lucy Kemp Welch's masterpiece Colt Hunting in the New Forest (Tate). He used the same perspective in 1913 for Hunting Morning (Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, Dedham) and also in Going to the Meet (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne). In December Morning, Cornwall Munnings added the dramatic element of the brilliant ray of raking light from a winter sun low in the morning sky, penetrating the gap between a high-sided stone wall. The shadow from the horse and rider adds to the movement of the scene.
The horse in December Morning, Cornwall was Munnings’ grey mare, bought in 1913. He had made £850, a considerable amount of money, from a successful exhibition at the Leicester Galleries that spring. 'Being smitten with the hunting in that western end of Cornwall, with what were known as the Western Foxhounds, I determined to buy a grey horse.' (op. cit., p. 282). He therefore went to Ireland in the company of his old Norwich friend, Richard Bullard to find a suitable horse. An Irish horse dealer named John Milady assisted Munnings by studying the catalogue for a sale at Sewell's livestock auction and marking a few horses that he thought would be good purchases; 'The next day lot so and so, described as "grey mare, 15.2 hands, six years old", put into the sale by the executors of a late judge who had driven her in his brougham, was bought for me by Milady for thirty-three guineas' (op. cit., p. 283).
Shortly after the new grey mare was debuted on the hills of Cornwall, Munnings’ fellow hunters showed their appreciation; 'Autumn came with the first meet of the Western Hounds. I remember riding the grey mare to one of these and how Colonel Willy Bolitho, then Master, said to me, "Where do you get your horses, Munnings?" There was no doubt she was the sort they liked in Cornwall - not too large, strong, active and short in the leg..."She's a good 'un," said the Master - and so she was.' In Ireland Munnings had also purchased a bay horse and 'with these two entirely fresh models, and using Red House Moor and the adjoining Trevelloe Wood as a painting-ground, I began a series of pictures.' (op. cit., pp. 284-85).
Munnings’ human model for the series of hunting pictures was usually a Cornish boy named Ned Osborne. 'I found a new lad, a primitive Cornish youth. Ned was the name of this simple soul, who grew into a useful combination of groom-model and posed for many a picture. [he] ... had the right-coloured face and figure for a scarlet coat and a black cap. Often did the patient fellow sit as model for me, and he liked it.' (op. cit., pp.272-73).
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