My Favourite Painting: Lord de Mauley

'It encapsulates the four most precious things to Munnings – and to me. If he were alive today, I would love to commission him to paint my wife on her horse.'

Lord De Mauley chooses My Wife, My Horse and Myself:

‘I felt an instant connection to this painting when I first saw a print of it in my godfather’s house. It encapsulates the four most precious things to Munnings – and to me. If he were alive today, I would love to commission him to paint my wife on her horse.

‘ I love the fact that the conformation of the horse is near perfect, as is its carriage. This is further enhanced by the sun on its coat, which highlights the contours of its body and is emphasised in the long shadows and the brilliant shine on Violet’s hat. The precision and meticulous detail are still and calming. If I could preserve a cherished moment in art, I would possibly choose Trooping the Colour or Royal Ascot.’

Lord de Mauley is chairman of LAPADA, the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers. Last year, he was appointed Master of the Horse by The Queen.

John McEwen on My Wife, My Horse and Myself:

It was the novelist R. S. Surtees’s foxhunting hero Jorrocks who said: ‘Three things I never lends —my ’oss, my wife and my name.’ Munnings put his preference in politer order and might have added ‘the house of my dreams’ – Castle House, Dedham, in the heart of Constable country – which forms the background to this painting.

He bought the house in 1919, the year he met his wife, Violet McBride, a war widow and noted horsewoman, winner of the Gold Cup in show-jumping at Olympia. ‘Here was a subject to paint – good-looking woman on horseback, silk hat and gardenia – all complete,’ he wrote; they married in 1920.

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He began the painting in 1928, the year he turned 50 and had a retrospective exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum (two years earlier, he had become a full member of the Royal Academy (RA)). It shows Lady Munnings riding side-saddle, as was then usual for ladies. Munnings holds the same picture as the one we see, a visual joke.

The painting was first exhibited at the RA’s 1935 summer show. In 1938, he gave it to his wife, who wrote it was ‘the only time AJ has painted us together’. It currently hangs in pride of place on the staircase of Castle House, now the Munnings Art Museum; this is not permanent, however, as there are 681 paintings and drawings in the collection.

The façade depicted is unchanged and faces visitors as they stroll back from the excellent Garden Café. The current exhibition is ‘Behind the Lines: Alfred Munnings, War Artist, 1918’ from the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, which runs until November 3.

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