Sir Alfred James Munnings
Sir Alfred James Munnings
by Baron (Sterling Henry Nahum)
bromide print, 1954
6 7/8in. x 5in. (175 mm x 145 mm)
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
- Baron (Sterling Henry Nahum) (1906-1956), Photographer. Artist associated with 98 portraits, Sitter in 4 portraits.
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
Current affairsRoger Bannister runs the four-minute mile. Bannister was the first man to achieve the 'miracle mile', a feat that was thought by some to be impossible, beating his rival, the Australian John Landy, to the record. Bannister went on to a career as a distinguished neurologist.
Food rationing ends in Britain.
Art and scienceJ.R.R. Tolkien publishes the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Tolkien was an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon language and literature and drew on his scholarly interests in history, language and mythology to create the fictional land of Middle Earth where the books are set.
Williams Golding publishes, Lord of the Flies.
InternationalThe South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) is established in Bangkok. This international defence organisation was established as part of the 'containment' policy of limiting the influence of communism. SEATO was, however, found to be ineffective as the member organisations failed to agree on combined action; it was disbanded in 1977.
Watch our playlist exploring scientific techniques used by the Gallery to unlock the secrets behind our Tudor portraits.
Subjects and themes
Search the collection by themes - from pets to weddings!
Black History Month
Take a tour exploring our Collection created by Alayo Akinkugbe for Black History Month in 2020.
A Picture of Health
Learn about pioneers in medicine, health and social reform from 1840 to 1920.
Tell us more
Framed & unframed prints