Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study for roundel, Bristol ceiling, circa 1953

SKU: 3373

Coloured pencil and white and black chalk on paper

15 1/8 x 14 3/4 in. (38.5 x 37.5 cm.)

(17 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (43.5 x 42.5 cm.) framed)


Height – 37.5cm x Width – 38.5cm


The New Bristol Council House, designed by Vincent Harris, was built in
the early 1950s. Monnington was commissioned to paint the ceiling in
1953; it was unveiled in 1956. The ceiling, measuring 95 x 45 feet
(over 4000 square feet), is amongst the largest post-war decorative
schemes in Europe. Monnington insisted on painting in the Renaissance
manner – directly onto wet plaster. The colours were ground and mixed
with an emulsion of eggs, chalk and water – Bristol’s Clerk of the
Works delivered baskets of eggs daily.

‘A suggestion by the Bristol city fathers that the subject should be
“something connected with the Merchant Adventurers” fell on deaf ears.
Monnington determined that his design should instead commemorate those
scientific achievements which future Bristolians would associate with
the mid-twentieth century, and which he himself had become excited by
over the last twenty years: modern nuclear physics; electronics, which
had enthralled him first in the shape of radio masts and later in radar
equipment; aeronautics, whose laws he had begun to comprehend during
the war; and biochemistry, where enlarged photographs of recent
research revealed amazing quasi-abstract patterns.’ Judy Egerton,
Monnington, Royal Academy, 1977, p. 13.

Monnington’s design bears similarities to the paintings of the Italian
futurist Balla, but is underwritten by his deep admiration for Piero
della Francesca, constructed as it is along the lines of the Golden
Section. There are also stylistic similarities with the sculptures of
Monnington’s neighbour, Professor Gerrard. A number of drawings by
Monnington for the ceiling are in the collection of the Victoria and
Albert Museum, The Science Museum and Bristol City Art Gallery. 

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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


SKU: 11261

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study for Bristol Ceiling, circa 1952


SKU: 9326

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Sheet of studies, early 1920’s


SKU: 7622

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Overflying aeroplanes, study for Clouds and Spitfires, circa 1943


SKU: 7623

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Compositional and cloud study for Southern England, 1944. Spitfires Attacking Flying-Bombs


SKU: 7624

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study with colour notes for Clouds and Spitfires, circa 1943


SKU: 7618

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study for Clouds and Spitfires,(7.11.44)


SKU: 7615

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Bomb damage to a stone masonary column, Antwerp, circa 1944


SKU: 7041

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study of Olive leaves, for Allegory , 1924


SKU: 7042

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study of Olive leaves, for Allegory , 1924


SKU: 6514

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Exploding bombs and rockets, study for Clouds and Spitfires, circa 1944


SKU: 6516

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

View from the cockpit, circa 1944


SKU: 6497

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study for Fighter Affiliation: Halifax and Hurricane Aircraft Co-Operating in Action, c. 1943


SKU: 1052

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Baptism, circa 1924


SKU: 278

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902 - 1976)

Study for Winter, circa 1922