After the First World War, Munnings became one of the most sought after portrait painters of his day. At the Royal Academy in 1924, he exhibited large prominent portraits of The Duchess of Westminster, Rosemary and Eddie de Rothschild, The Duke of Marlborough and Lord Ivor Spencer Churchill, as well as Lord and Lady Mildmay of Flete, with their Children, Helen and Anthony. These large commissioned portraits are clearly in the grand British tradition where the requests and personalities of the sitters are evident. For instance, in the Marlborough portrait, the Duke instructed Munnings to include a signpost to Melton, a clear reference to the 19th century hunting portraits by John Ferneley. In the Mildmay portrait, the landscape is an accurate rendering of the family's Devonshire estate with the Ermington spire prominently depicted. These paintings certainly led to Munnings's election as a full member to the Academy the following year (appropriately on Derby Day in 1925).
In his autobiography published in 1951, Munnings discusses the Mildmay commisssion. "Twenty-seven years ago Lord Mildmay of Flete asked me to paint the family on horseback--himself, Lady Mildmay, and Helen and Anthony, their children. Last week, alas! Anthony--who had become Lord Mildmay--was drowned whilst bathing. He was forty-one. Twenty-seven from forty-one leaves fourteen Anthony's age when I painted him in the picture--a boy at Eton. Brown eyes in a bright young face, very long legs and a good seat on his pony. The brother and sister had a lot of fun over the picture, which was begun and finished at Flete. Devon is a rainy country. Often we were forced into a large, empty playroom with a good light, using a wooden saddle-horse from the stables, each sitting in turn. The boy, being the nearest figure in the picture, became the most important. Children always say what they think, and are not easy to please. I tried to please the quizzical, fourteen-year-old Anthony, and he approved at last of his portrait. The picture was painted in late August--the background a sloping hillside of patterned grass and stubble-fileds, showing Ermington spire over the trees, which made the picture." (op. cit., p. 151)
In 1937, Munnings painted another commission for Lord Mildmay, The Hon. Anthony Mildmay on Davy Jones which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1938 (see lot 162).
This painting has been requested for the Sir Alfred J. Munnings Exhibition to be held by The National Museum of Racing, Saratoga Springs, 8 July to 4 September 2000.
Lord and Lady Mildmay of Flete, with their Children, Helen and Anthony, with a View towards Ermington in Devonshire
Oil on canvas
Sir Alfred J. Munnings, P.R.A
London, The Royal Academy, 1924, no. 10.
London, The Royal Academy, Munnings Retrospective Exhibition, 1956, no. 202, illustrated p. 44.
London, Sotheby's, The British Sporting Heritage, 19 December 1984 to 18 January 1985, no. 50.
44 x 55 in. (111.8 x 140.2 cm.)
L. Lindsay, Pictures of Horses and English Life, London, 1927, p. 45, illustrated (1939 ed., p. 67, illustrated).
A. J. Munnings, The Second Burst, Bungay, 1951, pp. 151-2, illustrated opp. p. 152.
R. Mortimer, Anthony Mildmay, Plymouth, 1956, p. 17, illustrated.
Presented to the Rt. Hon. Francis Bingham Mildmay, the first Baron Mildmay of Flete, on his retirement from the House of Commons by 8,170 friends and constituents in the County of Devon, 1923 (according to the plaque on the frame).
Lord Mildmay of Flete, thence by descent to the present owner.