61| Sir Alfred J. Munnings (British, 1878-1959)



Oil on canvas, 25" x 30"

$150,000 - $250,000

Provenance: Carnegie Institute, Philadelphia
Private Collection, Greenwich, Connecticut
Christie's, New York, May 1, 1981
Private Collection
Cross Gate/Fasig-Tipton Auction, Saratoga Springs, NY, August 11, 1996


Hop Pickers, Hampshire was painted in September of 1913, in Binsted, Hampshire, where Munnings spent six weeks painting the gypsies who came for the hop harvest. The 1913 trip that produced Hop Pickers, Hampshire was Munnings was first introduction to the gypsies, an introduction made by his friend, Olive Branson. Branson had a house in Hampshire but would spend part of each year travelling around England and Ireland in a caravan with several gypsy families. Each autumn the gypsies would congregate at Binsted in Hampshire for the hop-picking season and the artist was so fascinated with these travelling people that he returned to paint them each autumn for nearly fifteen years. When recalling his times painting the hop pickers in his autobiography Munnings fondly reminisced: "Of all my painting experiences, none were so alluring and colourful as those visits spent amongst the gypsy hop-pickers in Hampshire each September. More glamour and excitement were packed into those six weeks than a painter could well contend with. I still have visions of brown faces, black hair, earrings, black hats and black skirts; of lithe figures of women and children, of men with lurcher dogs and horses of all kinds. I still recall the never-ceasing din around their fires as the sun went down, with blue smoke curing up amongst the trees. I think of crowded days of work too swiftly gone... Never in my life have I been so filled with a desire to work as I was then."

Inspired by these new and exciting subjects Munnings painted a series of works of the gypsies going about their daily lives. Several of the works from this period are set in landscapes similar to Hop Pickers, Hampshire, with its sun-filled open fields bordered by wispy-trunked thorn trees. The branches reach up to create a colorful canopy, offering shelter to weary horses, a shady campground for tired workers, and a compelling location for Munnings to explore the shifting effects of light and shadow. The present work was the beginning of a lifelong fascination the artist had for the gypsy subjects which would become a major part of Munnings oeuvre. The joy Munnings found in painting this alluring new subject matter is evident in Hop Pickers, Hampshire in the loose brushstrokes, warm tones and carefree feel that the painting exudes. Munnings had found his subject.

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