Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976)   BIOGRAPHY

The Three Marys
Framed (ref: 6058)
Oil on canvas 
34 13/16 x 46 7/8in. (88.5 x 119 cm)


​Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1952 (216)​
According to John Monnington, the artist's son, this canvas​, dating to the ​early 50's​, was painted​ at Leyswoods (Groombridge) in Kent, in  woods that were known as  'the sand pit', at the back of Monnington's studio . During WW2  the Canadian army  used 'the sand pit' as a training area for medical front-line hospital staff and Monnington - on seeing  tents erected there - ​​ had a sort of vision of what he believed was a place that could have had some similarity to early Christian sites in Palestine. 

According to ​the artist's son it was painted en plein air and then finished in the studio. Monnington was very much influenced by Cezanne at this period. The semi​-​abstract pointillist technique provides a link with the Bristol Ceiling which as Monnington's first purely abstract work was embarked upon a year after The Three Marys was finished. John Monnington has a small​ ​painting  done at the same place and time, though without the figures​.​  ​

​Stylistically it is fascinating to compare The Three Marys to Monnington's Annunciation which, ​exhibited at The Royal Academy some thirty years earlier, is of a similar size and subject, showing  a grouping of women dispersed within a woodland setting

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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