Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Design for Students Union, University of London, circa 1969

SKU: 585

Acrylic on board

17 x 13 in. (43.2 x 33 cm)


Height – 43.2cm x Width – 33cm


The Artist’s Studio

Exhibited: Sir Thomas Monnington,The Fine Art Society, 1997 (no. 140)
Literature: Paul Liss, Thomas Monnington:The British School at Rome, 1997, repr. p. 54.

In a white gesso shadow box frame with museum glass

It has been a failing all my life that I take a long time to resolve a painting problem. I take a year to do one painting because I make innumerablestudies preparing the way ‚Ķ I am now preparing something for the summer exhibition ‚Äì I expect that I will use that as a basis for the mural’ (interview in the Sunday Express, 1969).

The mural to which Monnington refers, and for which this painting is a study, was commissioned by the Edwin Austin Abbey Trust for Mural Painting in Great Britain, and completed and installed in the early 1970s. It was later removed from the Students’ Union and is assumed to have been destroyed.

Monnington was the first President of the Royal Academy to encourage the exhibition of abstract works at the academy, including his own. Although in 1967 the Chantrey Bequest acquired Square Design 1966 for the Tate Gallery, his significant contribution to post-war art in Britain has since been largely ignored.

Monnington’s journey to Abstraction commenced when he was  commissioned to paint the ceiling for Bristol Council House in 1953:

Monnington’s assistants Scott Medd and W.B. (Peter) Lowe took 11 months to execute the designs. Lowe recalls:Tom maintained that it was difficult to draw angels in the twentieth-century, and was comforted by the enduring qualities of geometry and light.

The design, based on simple geometry, was visualised as over-lapping webs of transparent light extending into and partly veiling the mysteries of space. The ceilings at Bristol and Exeter have matured well unlike the earlier St Stephens Hall and can safely be hailed as twentieth century masterpieces, and the studies for them, prepared with the precision and patience of a master, appear today both strong and vital.(Peyton Skipwith, Thomas Monnington, published by Paul Liss in association with The Fine Art Society, 1997, p.9.)

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Sir Thomas Monnington
Sir Thomas
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


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study for Bristol Ceiling, circa 1952


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Sheet of studies, early 1920’s


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Overflying aeroplanes, study for Clouds and Spitfires, circa 1943


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Compositional and cloud study for Southern England, 1944. Spitfires Attacking Flying-Bombs


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study with colour notes for Clouds and Spitfires, circa 1943


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study for Clouds and Spitfires,(7.11.44)


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Bomb damage to a stone masonary column, Antwerp, circa 1944


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study of Olive leaves, for Allegory , 1924


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study of Olive leaves, for Allegory , 1924


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Exploding bombs and rockets, study for Clouds and Spitfires, circa 1944


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
View from the cockpit, circa 1944


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study for Fighter Affiliation: Halifax and Hurricane Aircraft Co-Operating in Action, c. 1943


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Baptism, circa 1924


Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)
Study for Winter, circa 1922