BRITAIN’S ‘WAR HORSE’ ARTIST
The National army museum is exhibiting The collected work of famous british painter sir alfred munnings for The first Time since 1919
Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) was one of Britain’s finest painters of horses, who secured his artistic reputation while serving as the official war artist for the Canadian War Memorials Fund. Munnings had trained at the Norwich School of Art and was a professional painter when war broke out. Despite volunteering, he was registered as unfit to fight in the British Army, which ultimately led him to work for the Canadians.
The Canadian War Memorials Fund had been founded by Lord Beaverbrook to document and memorialise the Canadian war effort at home and overseas through paintings and sculptures. Munnings’s task was to capture the frontline and logistical work behind the lines on canvas, and he was dispatched to the Western Front in early 1918. Embedded in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Munnings’s paintings focused on equine themes, and he movingly wrote about the horses he encountered: “They have been my supporters, friends – my destiny in fact. Looking back at my life, interwoven with theirs – painting them, feeding them, riding them, thinking about them – I hope that I have learned to understand their ways.”
Running between 30 November 2018 and 3 March 2019 at the National Army Museum, ‘Alfred Munnings: War Artist, 1918’ is displaying 41 of Munnings’s original paintings, particularly his wartime work. The exhibition has been developed by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with the Munnings Art Museum and is sponsored by the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation. The paintings are also supplemented by the NAM’S own collection relating to General Jack Seely, who commanded the Canadian Cavalry Brigade during the war.
This is the first display of Munnings’s war paintings since 1919, and the exhibition is split into six themes: ‘The Artist’, ‘Forging a Visual Legacy’, ‘Devastation and Beauty’, ‘A Mobile Fighting Force’, ‘Supplying the War Machine’ and ‘A Reputation Forged in War’. These themes show Munnings’s emerging mastery of equine subjects, portraiture and pastoral images.
Mark O’neill, president and CEO of the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Museum of History, says, “It is a pleasure to share works by Alfred Munnings with an international audience. His paintings of First World War scenes – from the men and horses who served in wartime, to forests and battlefields – are an evocative reflection not only of Canada’s military history, but the development of one of England’s best-known artists.”
Tickets for the Munnings exhibition can be booked in advance and cost
£6 (plus concessions).