Ahead of our first ever art dinner on Friday 15 September we sat down with Jenny Hand, Director of The Munnings Art Museum
Not far from the centre of Dedham is Castle House, the home of The Munnings Art Museum, dedicated to the work of Sir Alfred Munnings, the prolific East Anglian painter and former President of the Royal Academy.
Renowned particularly for his equestrian paintings, Munnings lived in this elegant Tudor and Georgian building for 40 years until his death in 1959.
In the grounds stands his former studio, part of which is now the Garden Café, and grazing ponies provide the backdrop as they did when Munnings and his wife, Violet, were living there.
The Museum is run by Director Jenny Hand and she will be a special guest at Wivenhoe House on Friday September 15 when she gives a talk on the artist and his paintings at our first Art Dinner.
Jenny was appointed the Director three years ago, having previously worked at museums around the East Midlands and South East. She said: “It is a real delight to be working here. It’s completely different to what I am used to. As a museum director I had never anticipated looking after 40 acres of land nor did I think I would be looking after what was someone’s home. We still try to maintain a homely feel to Castle House and our visitors really enjoy that.
“It is so beautiful in this area and it gives you a wonderful feeling to see landscapes, that have been captured on canvas, all around you.”
Sir Alfred Munnings was born in Mendham, Suffolk, in 1878 the son of a miller. Even as a child he was a talented artist. Among the collection at Castle House, is a sketch of horses ‘scraped’ from his childhood nursery wall. He trained at the Norwich School of Art in the 1890s before being catapulted to international fame in 1919 with paintings of the Canadian Cavalry in France. He then reached the peak of his career painting equestrian portraits on the wealthy estates of England, Europe and the East Coast of America.
Jenny said: “He produced more than 4,000 works in his lifetime and here we have an extensive collection of works from his boyhood sketches to some of his very last pieces. We can only display a quarter of them at a time, which means we can refresh our display regularly, so visitors can always be sure of seeing something different.”
Currently the museum is running a special exhibition: ‘Munnings and the River’ until the end of their season on 29 October.
Jenny said: “It all started when we assisted the BBC-TV series Fake or Fortune identify a genuine river scene by Munnings. We realised how many landscape paintings Munnings had completed, even though he is remembered particularly for his depiction of horses.”
More than 40 oil and watercolours portraying views of the rivers Stour, Waveney and Barle are presented alongside sketches, photographs and personal belonging from the artist.
Correspondence between Munnings and his friend, The Poet Laureate, John Masefield, is included in the exhibition and marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Munnings’ book of poetry, Ballads and Poems.