The Friends of St Mary’s Church are collaborating with the Munnings Art Museum in Dedham, to present an exhibition called Alfred Munnings: Colour & Light in St Mary's Church, Bungay, from Saturday April 27–Monday May 6. CHRISTOPHER REEVE looks at what visitors can expect

The displays at Alfred Munnings: Colour and Light are inspired by an exhibition at the Munnings Art Museum last year, which explored the artist’s use of colour and depiction of light on his subjects. Colour reproductions of paintings in the exhibition will be displayed in the church.

Sir Alfred Munnings was born in Mendham in 1878, where his father owned the local mill.

During the 1890s, in Norwich, Munnings served an apprenticeship at Page Brothers, lithographic printers, and attended evening classes at the Norwich Art School.

Munnings set up his own studio in Mendham, and the subjects he loved to paint best were horses.

Attending the Bungay May Fairs, for the auction of horses and ponies, provided an ideal opportunity to study all types of breeds, and the annual Bungay Races on Outney Common provided further inspiration.

It can truly be said that living near Bungay helped to establish Munnings as the celebrated equestrian artist that he became.

East Anglian Daily Times: Munnings StrandedFollowing a War Artist Commission during 1918, Munnings exhibited 45 canvases depicting the Canadian Cavalry and Forestry Corps, at the Royal Academy.

This brought him huge success and secured many commissions from wealthy aristocrats and Royalty during the 1920s and 1930s. He is now one of Britain’s best loved painters of horses and country life.

 He had moved to an attractive house on the outskirts of Dedham, in 1919, Castle House – ‘the house of my dreams’,  but retained a strong affection for the Waveney Valley region, and later in his life considered moving back here, but it was not to be.

He made friends with the well- known Suffolk writer, Adrian Bell, who lived and farmed in the Beccles area, and the pair loved to motor around the Waveney region, admiring the beautiful river valley scenery, and drinking in the local pubs.

In 1950, the Bungay Town Trust felt they had achieved a real Scoop when both men agreed to accept the Town Reeve’s invitation to attend the annual dinner, in November, as guest speakers.

Munnings was in his usual outspoken manner, in his speech criticising the Minister of Agriculture for his lack of support for local farming regions, and the educational system which he felt neglected to teach children about the importance of the soil, and local produce.

He was saddened by the possible demise of the Bungay annual races, and also the sale of Flixton Hall, the region’s most significant stately home, later demolished.

East Anglian Daily Times: The Path to the Orchard

At the end of his speech, he received a great ovation, but several guests were offended by his somewhat ‘fruity’ language.

Adrian Bell was also critical of post-war developments, and felt that country towns were growing too big, with chain-stores, pre-packed food, and ‘striving to become industrial cities’.

By losing old traditions and a genuine rural way of life, there would be a decline in art, both in terms of painting and writing. ‘But Bungay’ he affirmed, ‘Thank Heavens, seems quite content with quiet life, and good craftmanship’.

Reproductions of Dedham paintings on loan for the Church include Stranded, depicting two children in a rowing boat caught in the tall reeds in the Waveney; and Path to the Orchard, an enchanting scene of a girl leading a white pony along the mill stream path at Mendham.

The exhibition opens with a preview in the church on Friday April 26, 7.30 pm. and guest speaker Marcia Whiting, curator of Alfred Munnings: Colour & Light.

Refreshments will be served, booking essential, and the exhibition continues from Saturday April 27 -Monday, May 6, 10–4pm.

Admission is free for both events, but donations are welcome.

For bookings and further information contact: John Warnes on 01986 892855, or Keith Parker on 893133.