AN EXHIBITION celebrating river paintings by an Essex-based artist has forged a link with walks along the River Stour.
Munnings and the River opens at The Munnings Art Museum, Castle House, Dedham, on April 1. It features almost 50 oil and watercolour paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings. The image above is Barge on the Stour at Dedham, 1930s. © The Estate of Sir Alfred Munnings.
The artist lived in Dedham for 40 years until his death at Castle House, in 1959. He left all his works and estate to the nation. It is now managed by a trust.
OS © Crown Copyright (2017) – GV203476
Munnings is known for painting horses, rather than rivers. He became particularly popular among society figures who commissioned him for hunts and races.
Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron, 1918. © Canadian War Museum
But art museum director, Jenny Hand said she wanted to change the perception that he only worked on commissions for the rich and wealthy.
“He was so much more than an equestrian artist,” she said. “I wanted to shine a spotlight for the first time on the other side to Munnings, the landscape artist whose skies are brilliant and whose river scenes capture a time that has passed.
“In these works Munnings was doing painting that he loved and for himself, rather than the commissioned works for which he is much better known.”
September Afternoon, Sir Alfred Munnings, 1930. © The Estate of Sir Alfred Munnings
The landscape around Dedham and north Essex was made famous by John Constable a century before Munnings arrived in Essex. He was born beside the River Waveney, in Norfolk, where his father ran a water-mill.
Munning was an apprentice printer until he was 20. But he really wanted to become a full time painter. He studied at the Norwich School of Art in his spare time until finishing his apprenticeship. He often featured Gypsies and horses in his work, but also rural scenes and, more specifically, rivers.
He bought Castle House, Dedham, in 1919, and used the house and adjoining studio for the rest of his career. While away on commissions, he would write to his wife Violet of the rivers he would walk at the end of a day’s work.
Taggs Island, Sir Alfred Munnings, 1919. © The Estate of Sir Alfred Munnings
Art director Jenny Hand added: “Rivers flowed through his life. There are many local scenes in the exhibition, which will be especially fascinating for our local audience, to see how Dedham has changed, or not.”
• The museum will coordinate a series river rambles along the Stour in partnership with the National Trust, at nearby Flatford.
Munnings and his wife Violet, messing about on the River Stour, 1920s. © The Estate of Sir Alfred Munnings
Sir Alfred Munnings, 1944, by Maurice Codnor. © The Estate of Sir Alfred Munnings
• Entry to the exhibition is £6 or £1 for children.
• Admission includes access to further 150 art works hung chronologically, charting the rise of this son of a Suffolk miller to multimillion-pound selling artist.
• There will be a Plein Air Paint Out for artists in September, with special guest Richard Allen (Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year).
• The museum owns the largest collection of art works by Munnings.
• The House, garden, artist’s studio, and Garden Café are set in forty acres of countryside, which can also be accessed by public footpath.
• Sit Alfred Munnings went on to become President of the Royal Academy (1944-1949).
• For more information visit www.munningsmuseum.org.uk
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