Sir Alfred James Munnings: Idle Moments or The Boathouse (1906)

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Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959), Idle Moments; or The Boathouse (1906), signed ‘A. J. Munnings’ (lower right),  oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.9 cm), Source: Christie’s

Munning’s Earliest Boating Theme

According to Christie’s, Idle Moments; or The Boathouse (1906) “is the earliest boating theme, foreshadowing [Sir Alfred James Munning’s] series of ladies in canoes painted in the 1930’s and 40’s.”  The description continues:

This scene is the boathouse at Mendham … The lady in the back reclines and contentedly settles in for the ride. Meanwhile, her friend has picked up one oar but appears to be organizing something in the bow. Her twisted form is juxtaposed to the vertical lines of the wooden pylons yet compliments the curve of the boat itself. The line comprised of the oar and her arms mimic the 45 degree angle of the dark wooden pylons and roof thereby creating a pleasing and cohesive compositional arrangement. Stylistically the fluid impressionistic lines of the dress fabric and the shimmering background ripples of water echo each other and contrast with the smooth sweeping lines comprising the boat. Quote from Christie’s,

11Screenshot_2018-11-12 2012_CKS_05969_0051_000(sir_alfred_james_munnings_pra_rws_idle_moments_or_the_boathouse) jpg (JPEG Im[...]
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959), Idle Moments; or The Boathouse (1906), signed ‘A. J. Munnings’ (lower right),  oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.9 cm), Source: Christie’s (detail)

Childhood Memories and Munning

The themes of boats and water are common choices for Barbizon and Impressionist painters. Water is particularly important to Munnings, the son of a miller who grew up on the river in the mill house. Christie’s explains:

Munnings grew up in Mendham on the river Waveney and his house was part of the mill where his father was the miller. Every night he heard the sound of the water and the roar of the waterwheel as it turned. The lure of the river was a powerful force throughout his life, and he was always happiest near the sound of water. He recalls in his memoirs that the river was his playground, and in later life, given a choice on a warm sunny day between a day out sailing or a day at the races, being on the water was preferred. Quote from Christie’s,

10Screenshot_2018-11-12 2012_CKS_05969_0051_000(sir_alfred_james_munnings_pra_rws_idle_moments_or_the_boathouse) jpg (JPEG Im[...]
Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959), Idle Moments; or The Boathouse (1906), signed ‘A. J. Munnings’ (lower right),  oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.9 cm), Source: Christie’s (detail)

Munnings is quoted in International Studio (loc. cit.):

‘I like to paint light and the effect

of it on things and movement, and

I believe in direct painting when possible,

and not too large a canvas’.

Click for Enlarged Detail:

Sir Alfred James Munnings, P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959), Idle Moments; or The Boathouse (1906), signed ‘A. J. Munnings’ (lower right),  oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.9 cm), Source: Christie’s 

All quotations are from Christie’s .
(Lorian Peralta-Ramos is credited by Christie’s in helping to prepare the catalogue entry for this work, which will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Sir Alfred Munnings.)

Thanks for Reading! 🙂

The End

2 Comments Add yours

  1. JMN says:

    I love the quote.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He certainly was a master in this area. Thanks for commenting, JMN! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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