The Frozen River, Flatford, Suffolk

The Frozen River, Flatford, Suffolk
Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959)
Oil on Canvas
BORGM 01584
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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The Frozen River, Flatford, Suffolk

Alfred Munnings was apprenticed to a printer in Norwich at the age of 16. He attended the Norwich School of Art in his free time. When his apprenticeship ended, he became a fulltime artist.

Munnings was elected president of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1944, however his Presidency was controversial. An outspoken critic of Modernism, Munnings made a drunken after-dinner speech in 1949, which was broadcast live on the radio. In it he berated the art establishment and ranted against modern art, including ‘those foolish daubers’ Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso, whose influence, he said, had defiled the British tradition. While he received considerable public support, he was ostracized from the art world and resigned the presidency of the Royal Academy to make ‘a joyous return to painting’.

By the 1950s Munnings technical skills and interest in the English rural scene were seen as an anachronism in the art world, but his work was highly regarded by collectors and commanded very high prices.

The Russell-Cotes Curator, Norman Silvester writing in the 1954 Russell-Cotes Bulletin described this painting as ‘as a subtle masterpiece’ and was ‘jubilant’ that it had ‘escaped export’ and been secured for Bournemouth.

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