Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976)   BIOGRAPHY

Umbrian landscape, circa 1923
Framed (ref: 113)

Tempera on panel, 9 1/4 x 13 in. (23.5 x 33 cm.)


Provenance: Lady Monnington; thence by direct descent
Exhibited: London, Royal Academy, Monnington, 1977 (6); Rome, The British School at Rome, Monnington, 1997 (40)
Literature: Judy Egerton, Monnington, London, The Royal Academy, 1977, p. 25; Paul Liss, Rome, Monnington, The British School at Rome,1997, pp. 40-41, reproduced

This study relates closely to the landscape that appears in The Wine Press, Monnington's first major Rome painting, commissioned by Lord Balniel in May 1923. It is likely to have been executed between February and March 1923, (one month after Monnington arrived in Rome on his Scholarship), when he travelled in Northern Italy, spending a month studying paintings in the Uffizi in Florence, and visiting Pisa, Arezzo, Perugia, Assisi and Orvieto. Alternatively it might have been executed in the summer months that followed, when Monnington reported to the faculty that he had left Rome to escape the heat and was 'doing some landscape studies which will come in useful for future pictures,' (British School at Rome Archives, August 1923). It is particularly close in style to the work of Winifred Knights (they were married in Rome on 23 April 1924), who along with Monnington was inspired by the work of Italian Quattrocento artists, especially the landscapes of Piero della Francesca, in which the same strong sense of space and a fascination with form and pattern are apparent. Monnington's panel has all of the shimmering beauty of his Royal Academy Diploma painting Piediluco, 1924 (Royal Academy collection).

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976)

Painter, especially of murals. Born in London, he studied at the Slade School in 1918-23 and was Rome Scholar in 1923-26. He married fellow Rome Scholar Winifred Knights in 1924. Among his public works are a decoration for St Stephen's Hall, Westminster, 1928, and the new Council House in Bristol, 1956. Monnington taught drawing at the Royal Academy Schools, 1931-39, and in 1949 joined the staff of the Slade, whose strong linear tradition marked his own work. Monnington is represented in a number of public galleries, including the Tate, British Museum and Imperial War Museum. He was elected RA in 1938, became its President in 1966 and was knighted in 1967. There was a memorial exhibition at the RA in 1977. Another traveled from the British School at Rome to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the Fine Art Society in 1997. From the 1940s Monnington lived in Groombridge, Kent; the local landscape inspired much of his post-war work. Monnington was one of the outstanding draughtsmen of his generation. He had a considerable influence as a teacher (Euan Uglow was among his pupils), and was one of the most effective of the twentieth-century presidents of the RA, turning around the Academy's ailing fortunes. Remarkably he was the first president of the Academy to produce abstract paintings and indeed made no distinction between abstract and figurative art: "Surely what matters is not whether a work is abstract or representative, but whether it has merit. If those who visit exhibitions would come without preconceptions, would apply to art the elementary standards they apply in other spheres, they might glimpse new horizons. They might ask themselves: is this work distinguished or is it commonplace? Fresh and original or uninspired, derivative and dull? Is it modest or pretentious?" (Interview in the Christian Science Monitor, 29.5.67).

Selected Literature: Judy Egerton, Sir Thomas Monnington, Royal Academy of Arts, 1977 Paul Liss, Sir Thomas Monnington, British School at Rome/Fine Art Society plc, 1997

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