Sir Alfred Munnings

Their Majesties’ Return from Ascot


Not on display

Sir Alfred Munnings 1878–1959
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1480 × 2445 mm
frame: 1734 × 2698 × 105 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1937

Display caption

One of the leading traditional painters of his generation, Munnings was best known for his horse paintings. This depicts George V and Queen Mary, with the future kings Edward VIII and George VI, returning to Windsor Castle after attending Ascot races. Munnings became a Royal Academician in 1925, and recalled that he wished to ‘make an ambitious effort’: this ‘ten-footer’, as he called it, was the result. Munnings consciously invited comparison with earlier British artists, not least with Constable’s ‘six-footers’. This picture was painted partly out of doors, with the horses and the carriage done from life.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘A. J. Munnings’ b.r.
Canvas, 58 1/4×96 1/4 (148×244·5), including 11 1/4 (28·5) added on r.
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1937.
Exh: R.A., 1926 (97); Venice Biennale, 1928 (97); R.A., 1938 (543); Bournemouth, April–June 1955 (809); R.A. Diploma Gallery, March–June 1956 (86).
Lit: The Second Burst, 1951, pp.268–76, repr. facing p.265; Reginald Pound, The Englishman. A Biography of Sir Alfred Munnings, 1962, pp.102–3.
Repr: Apollo, VIII, 1928, p.84 (original state); Lindsay, 1939, pl.36 (detail of original state); Hesketh Hubbard, A Hundred Years of British Painting, 1851–1951, 1951, pl.97.

Painted in the summer of 1925 from recollections of the royal processions on the four days of the Ascot races, coupled with the painting of individual elements of the composition from the life in Windsor Park, the picture being painted a part at a time; only the finishing-off was done in the artist's London studio. A number of changes were made in the background and in the position of the signature between the work's first showings in the late 1920s and its purchase in 1937. The large painting was preceded by a smaller preliminary version in which the procession is seen from slightly ahead and the trees extend farther across the background (30×40 in.; Lord Fairhaven collection; repr. Lindsay, op. cit., pl.70, and The Second Burst, facing p.280).

These works arose from a commission from Queen Mary which resulted in the painting of another Ascot scene, ‘The Procession crossing the Park’ (repr. The Second Burst, facing p.265). Also shown at the R.A. in 1926 was ‘The Royal Carriage waiting for Their Majesties at Duke's Lane, Windsor Park, on Ascot Gold Cup Day’.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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