Alfred Munnings

Nationality: British

Dates: b. 1878-d. 1959

Alfred Munnings was born at Mendham Mill on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and demonstrated a precocious drawing ability from an early age. At 14 he was apprenticed to Page Brothers, printers in Norwich, and spent the next six years producing lithographs for advertising, designing for Caley’s and Colman’s Mustard amongst others. Despite working very long days he attended evening classes at Norwich Art School, later studying at the Atelier Julien in Paris. In 1899 he lost the sight in his right eye during a riding incident. He was undeterred by the injury, in the same year he exhibited his first tour-de-force Royal Academy painting, becoming a mainstay of the exhibitions in the following years with a series of monumental post-Impressionist oils, sealing his reputation. From 1911 he briefly moved to Cornwall and became associated with the Newlyn group of Artists, he met his first wife, who later died of suicide during a period which is white-washed from Munnings’ autobiographies. In 1918 Munnings became an Official War Artist, attached to the Canadian cavalry, the following year, his commercial success allowed him to buy his ‘dream home’, Castle House in Dedham, which remained his home and studio for the remainder of his life and now home to the fine Museum dedicated to his work. In 1944 he was elected President of the Royal Academy and five years later delivered an infamous declamatory speech attacking the corrupting influence of Modernism in Art.

Munnings’ popularity has never wained and few 20th century artists have been more commercially successful. As a consequence there are innumerable copies and fakes, some of which were produced during his lifetime. The acid test for determining genuine Munnings works is quality, he painted with outrageous flair and was equally adept in watercolour and oils, Munnings was one of the technically finest artists of his generation, and copies invariably fall short of his exacting standards. Prices at auction are very broad, with 30-plus paintings to date, achieving in excess of a million, yet its still possible to purchase pencil or ink sketches for a few hundred.

Munnings’ popularity has never wained and few 20th century artists have been more commercially successful. As a consequence there are innumerable copies and fakes, some of which were produced during his lifetime. The acid test for determining genuine Munnings works is quality, he painted with outrageous flair and was equally adept in watercolour and oils, Munnings was one of the technically finest artists of his generation, and copies invariably fall short of his exacting standards. Prices at auction are very broad, with 30-plus paintings to date, achieving in excess of a million, yet its still possible to purchase pencil or ink sketches for a few hundred.