Sir Alfred James Munnings, KCVO, PPRA

(1878 - 1959)

Show Dress - Mare and foal belonging to Colonel Guy Blewitt

Signed, lower right: A. J. Munnings
Oil on panel
14 x 26 in – 35.6 x 66 cm
Frame size
20 x 32¼ in – 50.8 x 81.9 cm 

Tel.: +44 (0)20 7839 7693


The artist;
Charity auction, Colchester Town Hall, donated by the above to raise funds for the local home for the elderly;
with Scott and Fowles, New York, before 1943;
with Wildenstein & Co., New York;
Private collection, USA;
Carter Brown, Director of National Gallery, Washington 
The present work was painted in 1936 and donated by Munnings to a charity auction which took place in Colchester town hall in order to raise money for the local old peoples’ home; he records in his biography that it sold for 300 guineas. Another version exists which is likely to have been a commission from Munnings’ close friend Lt. Colonel Guy Blewitt DSO, MC. Blewitt and his family were farmers in the village of Boxted, just a few miles from Dedham where Munnings had lived since 1919. Blewitt fought in the Great War and served with distinction at the Battle of the St Quentin Canal, a key engagement which took place in September 1918 and resulted in the first major breach of the Hindenberg line. He was clearly a close confidante of the artist and was called in to meet a doctor who attended while Munnings was suffering from a mystery ailment. “For this visitation, Guy Blewitt, a trusty friend, late master of our hounds, was called in to meet the specialist with my wife. After overhauling me and consulting in the next room, doctor and specialist went off downstairs for further consultation with Guy and my wife.” Fortunately the diagnosis was far from grave, “…my wife and friend who already were charging upstairs at a gallop, shouting, “A.J.! A.J.! …It’s only flatulence! ! He says it’s only wind! ! That you’re all right! !” (Sir Alfred Munnings, The Finish, London, 1952) The breed of horse, Suffolk Punch is first referred to in the 16th century; always chestnut in colour, their strength and stamina combined with a docile nature makes them the ideal workhorse. In the present work, Munnings’ employs his distinctive technique of reflected light and colour to render their coats which contrast beautifully with the vibrant blue ribbons. It is interesting to note that the groom is placed behind the horse’s head so as not to distract from the pictorial celebration of this magnificent breed.


Sir Alfred J. Munnings was an artist of the twentieth century steeped in the traditions and values of the past. His artistic training was not dissimilar to that of a seventeenth century Master. Showing some early talent, Munnings was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers, Page Brothers in Norwich for six years, studying at Norwich School of Art in the evening.

He had some success locally and showed two paintings at the Royal Academy in 1899. In the same year he returned to set up his studio in Mendham, and in an accident lost the sight in one eye. In his early years he supplemented his income by designing posters at which, with is consummate draughtsmanship he excelled. He studied briefly in Paris between 1902 and 1903.

Munnings drew his subject matter from the East Anglian landscape and rural society. A horse fair of 1901 showed an early interest in horses while fairgrounds and rural occupations provided the artist with considerable subject matter. 1910 saw Munnings visit Lamorna in Cornwall where he met Laura (1877-1970) and Harold Knight (1874-1961), lifelong friends, and where he stayed between 1911 and 1916. In 1913 he held his first one-man show at the Leicester Galleries, where Laura Knight, DBE, RA showed.

In 1918 Munnings was appointed as a war artist with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, producing an important body of work for the Canadian Government. Munnings settled in Dedham in 1918, marrying Violet in 1920. He was elected Royal Academician in 1925, to the RWS in 1929, in 1944 Munnings was knighted and elected President of the Royal Academy between 1944 and 1949. In this latter role he famously made known his utter contempt for ‘Modern Art’. Munnings was a prolific artist and a consummate draughtsman, whose work as a war artist raised his profile and reputation. Best known for his equestrian works, portraits and racing works, Munnings range was enormous. He excelled in landscape and scenes of rural life, recording a way of life that was coming to an end.

His works are in the collections of HM the Queen, J. Mitchell Chapman, Lord Fairhaven and Major Sir Reginald Macdonald Buchanan. His works can be found in museums in: Birmingham; Liverpool; London, Tate Gallery; Norwich; Preston; USA, Yale University; Brisbane and Melbourne.

Sir Alfred James Munnings, KCVO, PPRA