Celebrated as one of England’s finest equestrian painters, Sir Alfred Munnings forged much of his early reputation as a brilliant war artist.
Serving in eastern France with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1918, Munnings sketched and painted landscapes, battle scenes and horses to document life on the fighting front and the vital logistical work taking place behind the lines.
For the first time in 100 years, 41 wartime paintings by Munnings are returning to the UK on tour from the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. In this once-in-a-lifetime display at his former home, Castle House in Dedham, the paintings will be shown side by side with the surviving sketchbooks that inspired them. This is the first time these sketchbooks have ever been on public display together with the finished pictures.
The exhibition follows a series of distinct themes, including the aftermath of war, the logistics of conflict, bravery and, of course, horses. The exhibition also juxtaposes the mundanity of life behind the lines in paintings such as A Grey Team, and Forest of Dreux with doomed gallantry, as so vividly depicted in Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron (above).
The Western Front is often associated with the terrible conditions of the Somme, but Munnings was also able to encapsulate the strange beauty and apparent quietude of scenes where the war had wrought its damage and moved onwards, in works such as Ruined Chateau at Ennemain, near Athies.
More than 150 other works by Munnings – from his boyhood sketches, through his early commercial work, to his iconic horse paintings – will also be on display throughout Castle House at the same time, offering a complete survey of his life and development as an artist.