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Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Hand and forearm: two studies, for Allegory, circa 1925

SKU: 1047
Red chalk over outline in black ink, 19 x 13 in. (48.2 x 33 cm.)
Presentation:
passe-partout

Size:
Height – 33cm x Width – 48.2cm

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
Evelyn Monnington

Provenance: Evelyn Monnington

This study shows a variant of the clasping hands of the two figures to the far right hand side of Monnington’s iconic painting  Allegory
(Tate Gallery) , the major work of his tenure as Rome Scholar in
Decorative Painting.


The cartoon and related studies, commenced in the
Spring of 1924, occupied the larger part of the second year of Monnington’s Scholarship. He commenced the execution of the painting, which was to
occupy his third and final year, in March 1925; it was purchased in
Rome, by Jim Ede for the Contemporary Art Society, before it was
completed and was presented to the Tate Gallery in 1939. The exact
meaning of the Allegory is unclear and Monnington himself remained
elusive about it; invited by the Tate to explain it, he replied, The
idea is a bit complex and was based on the story of the Garden of Eden,
but rather a personal interpretation of it” (letter of 17 May 1953).
When pressed, a few years later to elaborate, he answered, ‚ÄúI don’t
think this picture has anything to do with the Garden of Eden story,
but I am no more able to explain its exact meaning now than I was at
the time I painted it. The whole design certainly had a very particular
meaning and purpose and was an attempt to express in pictorial form my
attitude to life – almost my faith (2nd April 1957). Having to be
content with this, the Tate Gallery retitled the picture Allegory –
Monnington having always referred to it simply by the title Decoration.
Iconogrpahically it contains elements of several myths but most
obviously The Garden of Love; specific episodes within the painting are
reminiscent of Adam and Eve; Apollo and Daphne; The Fountain of Youth.
Luciano Chelles has pointed out that the composition is to some extent
an adaptation of Piero della Francesca’s Death of Adam (San Francesco,
Arezzo) and reproduces specific elements such as the figure sitting on
the ground and the placing of a large tree at the centre of the
composition. Ricketts and Shannon, asked by the Faculty of Painting at
the British School to report on Monnington’s progress commented that
they found Monnington, “keenly alive to the merit of the Masterpieces
he had seen in Italy and alive to the technical practises of the
Masters” (12.1.25)
‚ÄúThe cartoons and studies Monnington has made … are characterized by
the utmost thoroughness and care; and some of his pencil drawings of
hands, feet, plant forms etc.’ being quite notable in their sense of
finsih and beauty” (Charles Ricketts, letter to Evelyn Shaw 12.1.25)

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THE ARTIST

Sir Thomas Monnington
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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