Going Out Hunting

“Hunting became part of my life, and I saw many things on those days: bright winter sunlight on clipped horses and scarlet coats; on bare trees; stacks; on farmhouse gables; the riding out after a slight frost; the riding home with a frost beginning and a young moon in the sky; puddles already crisping over as I said good night to friends. Such were needed to freshen my mind and vision.

The Hunt, 1905, watercolour, private collection
copyright the estate of Sir Alfred Munnings

Here is another kind of day I remember, it was in February; I still wanted another water-colour to make up my six for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Exhibition. That morning, full of hope, I was going out hunting, but seeing the bright sun with early spring in the air, I resisted the urgent desire to go to the meet. Dashing up to my bedroom, I was soon into my old clothes, to the disappointment of George, who was always glad to send me on my way to a hunt.

“Get Rebecca saddled, George, and get out the scarlet coat and cap,” said I in haste.

Hurrying to the studio, I bustled around, gathering easel and water-colours., and marched out to the fray, to my “hidden spot “, where the scarlet wasn’t seen from the road. George was ready to get up on to the glossy, clipped-out mare, each looking the part. I remember his pose his right hand was resting on the rump of the mare as he turned, looking back, pretending to be a whipper-in calling to tail hounds.

Huntsman in Cover, 1908, watercolour, private collection
copyright the estate of Sir Alfred Munnings

Soon I had composed, started, and was well on the way to finishing the picture. It was bright, fresh, and looking well by one o’clock. After two o’clock I was out again, completing background, bare trees, fields and distance, as they appeared with the horse and rider. Between 3 and 4 p.m. I had finished with ease, and was full of a sense of satisfaction, with hands growing cold, as two friends on horseback came riding along a headland on an adjoining field.

The result of this day’s work was cheering to a poor painter dependent on the brush for his living. Behold, in the Spring, on just such a bright morning, a dear old maiden lady, a neighbour, had looked in to ask me to supper with herself and bachelor brother. The letters had just come. I opened them. Two were from the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, in one of which the Secretary informed me of the sale of three works. I shouted “Hurrah !”, and so did the old maid. Then I opened the other one, and read the usual notice: “Your drawing, number so and so, has been purchased by” But what was this? I looked and looked “Queen Alexandra”. Could such things be? I read and shouted it to the old lady, and rushed out to the stables to tell George, with Miss Irons that was her name rushing out, too. “Seize my coat behind, or I’ll go up in smoke !” I cried, and she seized my coat, holding on and crying, “Whoa, Alfred !”, as I called George, and went to take a look at the placid Rebecca as she gazed out of the door. She certainly had earned her keep for a while, for the picture had sold for the vast amount of twenty-five guineas !”.

Alfred Munnings, An Artist’s Life, 1950

Hunting Morn, 1913, oil on canvas, the Munnings Art Museum
copyright the estate of Sir Alfred Munnings