Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S.
Artist Sir Alfred James Munnings P.R.A., R.W.S. (1878-1959)
Title The Pad Groom
Size oil on canvas signed ‘A.J. Munnings’ (lower left) 21 ½ x 24 in. (54.6 x 61 cm.)

Provenance

With Arthur Tooth & Sons, London. Purchased by the present owner's grandfather in 1954.

Exhibited

New York, Howard Young Galleries, Paintings of Horses and Sporting Events by A.J. Munnings, R.A., December 1930, no. 3. Buffalo, The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by A.J. Munnings, R.A., February - March 1931, no. 3. Montreal, Eaton's Fine Art Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by A.J. Munnings, 1935, no. 42.

Description

The sitter in this painting was Mr Dale, a groom to the eighty-two year old Master of the Western Foxhounds, Thomas Robin Bolitho of Trengwainton, Cornwall. He was the oldest Master of Hounds in England at the time. Munnings painted Bolitho's portrait and a portrait of Dale entitled Black and White (both illustrated, A.J. Munnings, The Second Burst, opposite p. 152.) Munnings writes of Dale, ‘I must not forget here the little, dapper second horseman, Dale. In those years before the war, I had only seen this diminutive man on a horse in his full glory; white cords, flesh-coloured tops, black coat with a belt round his waist, top hat with a cockade – a real Hunt-servant or, to be correct, pad groom. As I worked, [on the portrait of Bolitho] every now and then the faithful Dale took a peep in at the library door to see all was well. Shorn of his hat and all his glory, he looked as though he never shed the clothes he was wearing, night and day. A perfect fit, such as only an old-fashioned groom would wear, even to the box-cloth leggings and the shining boots. Often in a hunt Col. Willy Bolitho, [the junior master under his first cousin mentioned above] hunting hounds would call to Dale, “Get up to the earth and stop him”, and Dale galloping hell-for-leather to the earth on the summit of the hill, dismounted, and facing the approaching fox, danced and yelled “Yi-yi-yi-yi”. He would have frightened a wolf.' (ibid, p. 146-8) The present work shows Dale in the same outfit as that shown in Black and White. His is also riding one of the two greys which feature in the other painting although it is not clear which one. As in Bolitho's portrait, a ruin is visible in the distance on a far hill. It is most probably a tin mine engine house known locally as Ding Dong, above Madron. The term pad groom is no longer in common use but refers to a domestic groom who bring out the master's second horse during hunting. A reference to a pad groom can be found in Surtees, Mr Sponge's Sporting Tour, Chapter VI entitled To Laverick Wells. Munnings was an avid reader of Surtees and often quoted from his. The work is included in Lorian Peralta-Ramos's catalogue raisonné of the works of sir Alfred Munnings.