Way of The Cloven Hoof
A Freelance visit to Sir Alfred Munnings' House
one of those monsoonish days to which we have become accustomed,
when the air and sky closes in and thunder reverberates, Freelance
declared it a fine afternoon despite everything and foregathered
at Munnings' House on the edge of Dedham.
An unassuming country house in pleasant grounds provides excellent
viewing areas for a wealth of Munnings' paintings, surrounded as
it is by stabling and pastures for the horses which were the centre
of his work. All the stereotypical impressions of Munnings are probably
true. He painted to a particular market and to a particular class...
horse racing... riding to hounds... the landed gentry... the tipsy
speech at the R.A. lambasting Picasso...
One of our members has described him as 'a first -rate pot-boiler',
but he was a splendid painterly practitioner in oils. Some of his
works look as if they've just left the studio. The light and shade
on the velvety haunches of a stallion is captivating. Repetition
throughout the collection wears a bit thin. Two pieces in particular
struck our party. The portrait of the society lady in a red dress
in a setting drenched in red gives a flood of that sanguinous colour
which seems to break a few rules and go against the overall flow
of work. And what Freud would have said... A splendid, large scale
painting of a sow overbestowed with teats and piglets in a woodland
glade, the sunlight dappling their backs was a surprise even to
the artist when he saw it again after a long interval.
The studio in a separate building in the garden has roof-lights
and a good working space as well as a separate room showing a sequence
of boating scenes on large canvasses. The artist's paraphernalia
of paint-smeared coats and battered palettes along with commercial
work for a Norwich Christmas cracker company and Mucha-style posters
complete the scene.
One slyly hidden facet of his life can be found amongst the (very
good) boyhood drawings and mementoes in a small alcove: Munnings
lost the sight of one eye in an accident at the age of twenty. I
particularly liked the stylised horses incised into the wet rendered
cement of a wall of the courtyard years ago and yet full of life.
Thanks once again to Mo Galvani for organising the outing which
finished at the tea-shop in the Craft market in warm weather while
Ipswich was experiencing a massive downpour.
more information about Sir Alfred Munnings and images of his house,