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Lord Astor's High Stakes

(Code: SAMGM2905)

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Lord Astor's High Stakes
By Sir Alfred Munnings. Image size 20'' x 16'' (50 x 40 cms).

Munnings painted many pictures for Lord Astor and this commission is discussed in the artist's autobiography. "Lord Astor wrote asking me to do this last picture, and I said 'No.' At Epsom, his eldest son, Bill said, 'Do paint High Stakes for father. The horse can be sent to you.' I said 'No.' Then the son who rides racing wrote to me and my reply was 'No; I paint no horses for people.' One morning, working in the rubbing stable, I was aware that I must have a racehorse to paint. My brain-cells were in shape, make and anatomy of a horse were shelved, had grown dull. On the Heath the next morning I saw Lawson, who used to train Lord Astor's horses at Manton. Talking to him, High Stakes came into mind--a horse that had finished racing... He found the horse already at Newmarket... I toiled on some hard studies of High Stakes, as usual trying to do the impossible. He certainly was a horse--a personality... At the least sound the horse held his head and tail high in the air... The long lines, the subtle shape, the alert, live look of a high-couraged, well-bred horse were beyond me and as I worked I saw in the poise of his head, in his actions, the sire Hyperion that I had painted fifteen years ago."
After World War II, Munnings painted wonderful starts of horse races, mostly at Newmarket where a rubbing house had been converted to a studio. Munnings writes, "But to my own profession and purpose--seeing visible beauty; the grouping, the movement--colour, all dependent on the lighting; the sky. Orange satin, cerise-and-white- blue-and-yellow, emerald green--a large field waiting, waiting, regrouping. At each start determined to retian the picture in my mind."