|By Sir Alfred Munnings. Image size 20'' x 16'' (50 x 40 cms).
By 1919 Munnings had been introduced to a new pleasure, the Sport of Kings. Although he had been to races from time to time during his youth, it was only when he entered the charmed circle of owners, trainers and breeders that he became a passionate devotee of the sport. He was commissioned to paint the aristocracy of horses as well as people. Munning’s passion was the country and its way of life. ‘Exercising, Early Morning Newmarket’ shows this passion. It concentrates on the unique atmosphere of the horse riding and the beauty of the horses in the country.
Munnings was always concerned to record a particular effect of light or a cloud formation or the movement of a horse. This painting shows the horses quite relaxed unlike Munnings more well-known paintings that show the start of a race, with the horses bunched together, tense and restless. Newmarket is the home of horse racing and Munnings was very fond of the place along with Epsom, remarking “for me, Epsom expresses the true meaning of the words ‘The Races’!” For many people, it is Munnings’ work that captures the spirit of these words.
It is no exaggeration to call Munnings the greatest equestrian artist since Stubbs. He was a great popular hero, and his work consistently sells for more than any other British painter of his generation. Indeed, much of his best work comes from his early years in Norfolk when he was free of financial worries.