William Waldorf Astor bought Cliveden in 1893 and gave the estate to his eldest son, Waldorf, as a wedding gift in 1906. The Astors entertained prominent guests from politics and the arts, as diverse as Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Gandhi, and Charlie Chaplin. Cliveden became a center of European political and literary life. After World War II, in 1963, Cliveden figured in the notorious Profumo Affair. Shortly afterwards Waldorf died and the family left. The National Trust took over management of the estate and opened it to the public in 1966. The original oil on canvas painting is in the collection of the Cliveden Estate, and suite at the hotel is now named for Munnings.
Sir Alfred James Munnings was a British painter of landscapes, sporting and genre scenes, with an enduring reputation for his equestrian portraits. According to Sotheby’s, in describing the original painting, “Munnings’ mastery of horses of all types and dispositions often brought him comparisons to George Stubbs” while the striking skies in his landscapes are reminiscent of those of John Constable. “What is less often observed is how carefully Munnings had studied the social painters of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, the artists like Wootton, Gainsborough, or Wright of Derby, who wrote the social history of the British nation in their paintings. Munnings was a master of the conversation piece as well as the sporting picture. He could paint the king and queen at the races one week, the traveling people the next.”
Perhaps Munnings’s keen observations of social behavior derived in part from his study of art, but it seems likely that he was also informed by his experiences as a rural working class man moving into the rarefied realms of the Royal Academy and aristocratic patronage in class-conscious England. He grew up in the countryside of Suffolk, the son of a miller, and at age 14 began a six-year apprenticeship with a firm of Norwich lithographers, studying painting in evening courses at the Norwich School of Art. After his apprenticeship, he set his sights on becoming an artist, persevering despite losing sight in one eye around the age of 20. The following year, in 1899, two of his paintings were shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. He also studied in Paris around 1902-03. A few years later, he went to Cornwall and affiliated himself with the Newlyn School of artists, who were interested in plein air painting. During World War I, Munnings accompanied the Canadian Cavalry Brigade to France as an official war artist. In 1919, he painted his first racehorse, a Grand National winner, and became an associate of the Royal Academy, achieving full membership in 1926, and serving as president from 1944-49. He was knighted in 1945, and received the additional title of Knight of the Royal Victorian Order in 1947. After Munnings’s death, his home, Castle House, Dedham became a museum of his work. Other museums housing his paintings include the National Museums, Liverpool, England, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. As of May 2017, according to Sotheby’s auction house, a catalogue raisonné of Munnings’s works was being compiled by Lorian-Peralta Ramos.
Frost & Reed is a British firm dealing in fine art, established in 1808. From 1920s into the ‘50s, they published prints after Munnings’s paintings. The company currently has galleries in both London and New York.
Full title and publication information lower margin: A Summer Evening — Cliveden from the painting by Sir Alfred Munnings, K.C.F.O., P.P.R.A. Privately printed by Frost & Reed Ltd., London and Bristol.
Condition: Print very good with the usual overall light toning, having large margins, with toning in margins from mat, but not visible as matted. Original Hogarth style frame, with black panel and gilt decoration, and with French mat, generally very good with the usual wear.
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