The Munnings Art Museum is at Castle House, the former home of Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) and his wife, Violet. Described by Munnings as “the house of my dreams” he lived and worked in this elegant Tudor and Georgian building for over forty years until his death in 1959.
Castle House is set in forty acres of beautiful countryside in the Dedham Vale on the borders of Essex and Suffolk. The museum owns the largest collection of paintings, drawings and sculpture by this prolific East Anglian painter and former President of the Royal Academy of Arts.
2022 Special Exhibition Alfred Munnings: the Art of the Poster
In 1892, aged fourteen, Alfred Munnings moved from his home village of Mendham in
Suffolk to the city of Norwich. He was apprenticed to the lithographic printers Page Bros. & Co., Ltd. where he learnt to design advertisements, posters and product packaging. For six years Munnings undertook work for large local companies such as Colman’s Mustard and Caley’s Crackers and Chocolates.
This year the museum presents a vibrant display of this lesser known commercial work by one of Britain’s greatest painter of horses and rural life. It is a rare opportunity to explore pictures and designs which demonstrate Munnings’ youthful ability to capture the aesthetic of the Belle Époque made popular by artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha.
Visits begin in the Tudor Gallery with the special exhibition. Drawings and paintings which capture Munnings’ teenage life in Norwich; Art School studies and monochrome paintings done for Norwich Art Circle exhibitions in the late 1890s. The exhibition continues into the Courtyard Gallery with poster designs, adverts, cracker box tops and book illustrations demonstrating a range of thematic influences, such as historical costume, fairies and fantastical beasts, on Munnings commercial art work.
Main rooms + Studio
The rest of the museum and Munnings’ former working Studio are hung with 150 oil and watercolour paintings and drawings. Alongside these are rare examples of his sculpture work. The carefully curated displays give a comprehensive overview of Munnings’ six decade career from childhood drawings to final oil paintings. Visitors can explore the artist’s developing style and approaches to painting through his passion for the rural working people and landscapes of East Anglia, Cornwall and Exmoor and the demanding work of painting wealthy patrons and their horses, pictures for which he is now globally renowned.
The Hall and Library showcase early impressionistic paintings, filled with light and colour, which capture the rural life and landscapes of Norfolk and Cornwall before the First World War. There is an emphasis on the women he portrayed during this time.
The Dining Room touches on the First World War but more importantly, alongside paintings in the Drawing Room, compares and contrasts Munnings’ commissioned equestrian portraits of the 1920s and 1930s with the early rural scenes. Pictures set against the background of hunting and horseracing highlight wealthier female patrons and models. These include both Munnings’ wives, Florence and Violet.
The Landings and upstairs Bedroom Galleries illustrate Munnings’ love of landscape. There is an in depth exploration of his painting process through the series of “September Afternoon” canoe pictures and studies. Displays continue with Munnings later works including paintings from the onset of the Second World War, when he was elected President of the Royal Academy and his love of painting racehorses at Newmarket in the last decade of his life.
A visit to Castle House provides the opportunity not only to learn about the life and work of Sir Alfred Munnings but to experience the ambience of this former home as it was when Munnings and Violet were in residence with furniture and personal items still in situ.
In the garden stands Munnings’ former studio which houses his painting materials and props. This year the studio is hosting a display of studies for, and the painting, Happy Days, Violet Munnings Riding on Exmoor. Studies date from the 1920s to 1950s as Munnings worked and reworked this large picture which was never completely finished.
There are explanatory text panels throughout the museum detailing important contextual events, people and influences. Many of the panels include quotes by Munnings from his autobiography which was published in 1950. Additionally, Room Stewards are on hand to answer questions and provide further information.
Café + Shop
The café, set in the garden, offers light refreshments. Outdoor seating offers views over the garden and across the vale. The museum shop has a range of books, unique gifts and souvenirs.
Opening Times + Prices
6 April -23 October 2022
Wednesday-Sunday and Bank Holidays, 1.30pm-4.30pm.
Adults including seniors £12 • 25s and under Free • Students £9
National Art Pass £6
Group visits and private hire by arrangement • Car and coach parking free
More Information on www.artuk.org
For an online talk by the Museum Director, Jenny Hand, https://artuk.org/visit/venues/the-munnings-art-museum-3524
and the ability to view paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings https://artuk.org/discover/curations/art-unlocked-the-munnings-art-museum
www.munningsmuseum.org.uk / 01206 322127
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