Meet Sir Alfred Munnings

About Sir Alfred Munnings

Son of a Miller to
President of the Royal Academy

Today, the enduring reputation of Sir Alfred Munnings is still epitomised by his exquisite, but often critically dismissed, depictions of horses and his vociferous, but vigorously supported, objections to Modern Art. What remains undeniable is that Alfred Munnings was born the son of a Suffolk miller and rose, through sheer hard work, to become President of the Royal Academy of Arts and a Knight of the Realm.

Born in rural Victorian Britain, taking evening classes at a provincial art school, Munnings fought through the adversity of losing the sight in one eye at the age of twenty-one to become one of Britain’s leading cultural figures by the end of the Second World War; an appointment which undoubtably brought him scrutiny and personal criticism.

As a young artist Munnings lived amongst the rural workers and Romany Gypsies of Suffolk. Many of them are immortalised in his early en plein air paintings done at the beginning of the twentieth century. Following his success as a commissioned artist during the First World War his social circles widened throughout the 1920s to encompass men and women of standing. He was part of Sir Winston Churchill’s Other Club and lifelong friends with the artist Dame Laura Knight and the Poet Laureate John Masefield amongst others.

Alfred Munnings exhibited three hundred paintings at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition over a six decade career. This included pictures commissioned by wealthy patrons and members of the Royal Family; his first royal portrait being the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, and his last being the late Queen with her racehorse Aureole. Munnings had a number of high profile one man shows and was honoured with retrospectives in Norwich, Bournemouth and at the Royal Academy.


Violet, Lady Munnings opens Castle House to the public as museum. Shows visitors around herself.


Sir Alfred Munnings dies peacefully at Castle House, 17th July,
aged 80.

Ashes interred in crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.


Publishes autobiography in three volumes.


Elected President of the Royal Academy and
receives a Knighthood.


Exhibits My Wife, My Horse and Myself at the Royal Academy.

Now earning the equivalent
of £32,000 per commission.


Aged 50, given a retrospective exhibition
at Norwich Castle Museum: Loan Collections
of Pictures by A.J. Munnings R.A..

and publicly loaned paintings and drawings.

Attracts 75,000 visitors over six weeks.


Elected Full Member of Royal Academy,
celebrates by travelling to Spain. Visits
museums, sees work of a favourite painter,
Diego Velazquez.


Marries Violet in March. She has society contacts
and manages his commissions.

She said: “he was never such a good artist after he married me.”

London exhibition at James Connell and Sons:
Paintings by A.J. Munnings, Gypsies in Hampshire.


Exhibits paintings at Royal Academy Canadian
War Records exhibition to much acclaim.
Made an Associate Member of the Royal Academy.


Sale of pre-war Cornwall works at Royal
Academy Summer Exhibition and at James
Connell & Sons Bond Street Gallery enables
purchase of Castle House, Dedham for £1,800.

Meets Violet McBride at Richmond Horse show, July.


Commissioned by Paul Konody to paint Canadian Cavalry Brigade in France.

includes a portrait of General Jack Seely on his
horse Warrior.

Returns to London, rents studio in Glebe Place from November.


His Father dies in March.

Florence takes her own life on 24th July.

First World War declared 28th July.

to enlist on three separate occasions but turned down due to his blind right eye and age.

Painting hop-pickers, Romany Gypsies, in Alton, Hampshire.


Marries Edith Florence Carter-Wood, an artist, and also from a wealthy family.

Image Courtesy of Tate.


Moves to Cornwall and sets up studio and stables in Lamorna.

Painting with Newlyn School
of artists including Laura Knight, who becomes a
life-long friend, Harold Knight, Samuel ‘Lamorna’
Birch, Stanhope Forbes.


Buys Augereau, a small white pony, another
favourite model featured in Path to the Orchard.


Sets up a new studio at Swainsthorpe, Norfolk,
and paints ponies is gravel pits and amongst the
Ringland Hills. Buys a Gypsy caravan, cart and band of ponies.

Grooms George Curzon and Bob pose as models. Meets George Fountain
Page, known as Shrimp, who becomes one of his favourite models.


Attends the Academie Julian in Paris during the
summers to study life drawing.


Blinded in his right eye by a bramble.

First paintings accepted at the Royal Society of
Painters in Watercolours.

First two paintings accepted at the Royal
Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition Stranded (now owned by Bristol Museum and Art Gallery) and Pike Fishing in January.


Returns to Mendham and sets up studio in an old
carpenter’s shop. Painting en plein air.

include river landscapes, country fairs, horses and
hunting, local villagers and gypsies, especially the
Gray family: Nobby, Charlotte and Fred.


His first commission from John Shaw Tomkins,
a Director of Caley’s, to paint a portrait of Daniel Tomkins and his Dog.


Joins Norwich Art Circle, possibly encouraged
to do so by Gertrude Offord, his watercolour
tutor. Painting romantic scenes, in sepia or black
and white watercolour, inspired by literature and
the past particularly costumed figures from the Georgian period.


Begins six-year apprenticeship with Page Bros.,
lithographic printers, in Norwich.

(pulling) Crackers a major client.

Attends classes at the Norwich School of Art
in the evenings.


Sent to board at Framlingham College, Suffolk.


Drew first pictures inspired by the Jovial
Huntsmen after Caldecott.

Starts drawing lessons
at the vicarage under Miss Kate Brereton.

His first picture sale is a pencil drawing of a tracehorse to Mr Sewell for five shillings.


Alfred James Munnings born 8th October at
Mendham Mill on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.