Sir Alfred James Munnings PRA, RWS (1878 – 1959)

The Flower Seller, Paris

Signed “A.J.Munnings” (lower left)

Oil on canvas

40.9 x 33 cm (16.10 x 13 ins)

A.H. Heath, by whom given to The Red Cross in 1942. The Red Cross sale; Christie's, London, 9 October 1942, lot 94 (28 gns to Sunlight.) By descent. Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 14 November 2013, lot 53

The present work dates from one of two short periods of study in Paris in 1902 and 1903 where, like so many British ‘Impressionists’, Munnings was influenced by the work of Degas. It is painted on a French canvas and is an unusual subject for the artist, but with its dabs of colour and atmospheric contrasts of light and shade, it places him early on within the context of British Impressionism. 

Lionel Lindsay comments upon Munnings' visit to Paris: 'Early in this period the Corporation of Preston purchased from the Academy his picture, The Last of the Fair, 1903 (Harris Museum and Art Gallery), and with this, his first important purchase-money - the proper thing to do was to make for Paris and study at Julian's [sic.]. There he worked and played and lived in that atmosphere of art which Paris alone can provide, and mixed with art students of every degree - an entirely new experience for a Suffolk provincial' (L. Lindsay, A.J. Munnings, R.A. Pictures of Horses and English Life, London, 1939, p. 6). 

In Paris, Munnings also discovered the work of Lucien Simon, Bastien Lepage, Gaston la Touche, Fantin Latour, Leon Lhermitte and other masters apart from Degas. He wrote that such painters aimed: 'to fill a man's soul with admiration and sheer joy, not to bewilder and daze him' (An Artist's Life, London, 1950, p. 182).