My favourite painting: John Chatfeild-Roberts

John Chatfeild-Roberts of the British Sporting Art Trust chooses a classic Munnings image.

John Chatfeild-Roberts on The Young Entry, A Snowy Road, Woolsthorpe by Sir Alfred Munnings

‘The Belvoir Hunt is close to my heart. You can still see that timeless 1921 scene today and I often drive up that road with its distinctive woodline. Munnings’s ability to capture a scene with a paintbrush and his avant-garde use of colour was exceptional — look at the turquoise on the white coat and the snow! Ernie Braisby wore the orange scarf in the foreground. He told John Holliday, then second Belvoir whipper-in, in 1990: “That Mr Munnings was a right one. If you didn’t look busy he’d have you holding a horse for hours!” The reality behind great art.’

John Chatfeild-Roberts is chairman of the British Sporting Art Trust

Charlotte Mullins comments on The Young Entry, A Snowy Road, Woolsthorpe

In 1921, Major Tommy Bouch, master of the Duke of Rutland’s hounds, commissioned Alfred Munnings to study the Belvoir Hunt. He gave Munnings unfettered access and the artist took full advantage, living with Bouch for several months, waking at dawn to witness hound exercise, sketching the aristocrats who rode with the Duke and the kennelmen and stablehands who orchestrated proceedings.

Munnings had fallen in love with painting horses as a young man and was a keen follower of hounds, so this commission must have thrilled him. He sketched and painted every work in situ, using broad, fluid brushstrokes to capture the flick of tails, the swish of coats, the sparkle of sunlight on snow. In The Young Entry, A Snowy Road, Woolsthorpe, we see a kennelman in his long white stable coat taking hounds out for their morning exercise, helped by two young trainees. The snow in the lane looks soft as butter and the long shadows imply an early start. The blue sky above the skeletal woods is barely brushed in to ensure our focus is on the hounds, who surround the three men with their noses low and sterns high.

Munnings fretted about showing this series of paintings at the Alpine Club in London in the spring of 1921, caveating the works as ‘impressions’ done ‘from the spot’. He had no need. They were a resounding hit, selling well and leading to new opportunities for the artist who would end up becoming president of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1944.

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