SIR ALFRED JAMES MUNNINGS, KCVO, PRA. 8 October 1878 – 17 July 1959
He was and is today, known as one of England’s finest painters of horses, and as an outspoken enemy of Modernism. Engaged by Lord Beaverbrook’s Canadian War Memorials Fund, he earned several prestigious commissions after World War I that made him wealthy. Alfred Munnings was born 8 October 1878 at Mendham, Suffolk across the River Waveney from Harleston in Norfolk. At fourteen he was apprenticed to a Norwich printer, designing and drawing advertising posters for the next six years, attending the Norwich School of Art in his spare time. When his apprenticeship ended, he became a full time painter. The loss of sight in his right eye in an accident in 1898 did not deflect his determination to paint, and in 1899 two of his pictures were shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. He painted rural scenes, frequently of subjects such as Gypsies and horses. He was associated with the Newlyn School of painters Although he volunteered to join the Army, he was assessed as unfit to fight but was assigned to one the horse remount depots on the Western Front. He was employed as war artist to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade under the patronage of Max Aitken in the latter part of the war. During the war he painted several scenes including a mounted portrait of General Jack Seely on Warrior and the cavalry charge at the Battle of Morieul Wood when Gordon Flowerdew earned his Victoria Cross. Munnings was elected president of the Royal Academy of Art in 1944, a post he held until 1949. His presidency is most famous for the departing speech he gave in 1949, attacking modernism. The broadcast was heard by millions of listeners to BBC radio. An evidently inebriated Munnings claimed that the work of Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso had corrupted art. He recalled that Winston Churchill had once said to him, “Alfred, if you met Picasso coming down the street would you join with me in kicking his… something something?” to which Munnings said he replied “Yes Sir, I would”. He was awarded a knighthood in 1944. He died at Castle House, Dedham, Essex, on 17 July 1959. After his death, his wife turned their home in Dedham into a museum of his work. The village pub in Mendham is named after him.
IMAGES NOT SHOWN – PLEASE REQUEST
PHOTOGRAPHIC ‘SERGEANT MURPHY & DRIFTER, SUMMERING. TITLED & ARTIST’S INSCRIPTION.
STUDY FOR FIGURE OF MILDMAY. MONOCHROME PRINT INSCRIBED BY ARTIST. 1939.
LADY MUNNINGS 1954 ASCOT RACES ROYAL ENCLOSURE BADGE.
STANLEY BARKER & THE PYTCHLEY HOUNDS.