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Sir Alfred James Munnings

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Sir Alfred James Munnings

by Baron (Sterling Henry Nahum)
bromide print, 1954
6 7/8in. x 5in. (175 mm x 145 mm)
Photographs Collection
NPG x21456

Sitterback to top

  • Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959), Painter and President of the Royal Academy. Sitter associated with 11 portraits, Artist of 1 portrait.

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Robin Gibson, Pets in Portraits, 2015, p. 118 Read entry

    The only really successful British sporting painter of modern times, Munnings nevertheless worked in a derivation of Impressionism that he had learnt from his great hero, John Singer Sargent. He lived at Dedham in the heart of Constable country, was a keen horseman and spent as much time in Newmarket as he did in his studio. Many of the most famous horses of the day, including Humorist, Hyperion and Brown Jack, were immortalised in his paintings. In 1949 he became perhaps the most controversial president of the Royal Academy ever, and his frequent attacks on modern art did much to enhance the Academy’s reputation as a bastion of conservatism.

    The photograph was taken in his studio, at the same time as one for Tatler magazine published in October 1954, and shows on the wall behind him his recently completed painting Who’s the Lady? HRH Princess Mary, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy the following year. Photographs of Munnings and Lady Munnings invariably show them with three of four dogs, but apart from his white mongrel Toby, to whom he devotes a lengthy eulogy, only a few of them are identified in his three-volume autobiography. This lively dog appears to be a Labrador retriever with a bit of greyhound in him and is perhaps the same dog that stands in for Munnings in the satirical painting Does the Subject Matter?, an attack on modern art and on Sir John Rothenstein, then Director of the Tate Gallery, which caused a storm of controversy two years later.

Events of 1954back to top

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