'Make more of Munnings links' plea

HE is ranked as one of the greatest painters of his era, continuing East Anglia's fine artistic traditions.But fresh claims were made yesterday that the region is failing to make the most of its links with one of its most famous sons – Sir Alfred Munnings – just days after one of his paintings sold for £4.

By Juliette Maxam

HE is ranked as one of the greatest painters of his era, continuing East Anglia's fine artistic traditions.

But fresh claims were made yesterday that the region is failing to make the most of its links with one of its most famous sons – Sir Alfred Munnings – just days after one of his paintings sold for £4.4million.

Calls were made for longer opening hours at the Sir Alfred Munnings museum in Dedham, but they have quickly been dismissed by trustees responsible for running it.


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Nearly 200 works by the late Sir Alfred are on display in the museum at the artist's former Dedham home, Castle House.

The museum is open from Easter until September, on Sunday, Wednesday and Bank Holiday Monday afternoons from 2pm until 5pm.

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But Dedham hotelier and restaurateur Gerald Milsom, who used to do dinner parties for Sir Alfred, is calling for the museum to be open all year and for longer hours.

Castle House was left by Sir Alfred's wife, Violet, for the benefit of the public. Mr Milsom said by his standards the restricted opening hours fail this condition.

He said the museum could sell a painting to fund additional opening. Last week The Red Prince Mare, which Sir Alfred painted in 1921, sold for a record-breaking £4.4million at auction at Christies in New York.

But yesterday, chairman of the Castle House trustees Ron Jones said: “The bequest said Castle House should be maintained as a museum to support the reputation of Sir Alfred Munnings the artist. His wife was alive when the museum was opened. The museum is now open more frequently than it was when she was alive.”

He said it would cost too much to open for longer hours and there were restrictions on selling the paintings left to the museum.

“We look at attendance figures. We make minor adjustments as and when appropriate. We extended our opening hours a couple of years ago and that extension did not result in an increased number of attendees,” said Mr Jones.

He added: “We have this debate every year at the start of the season. We are a charity with limited funds. Monies coming through admission fees are not enough to keep the museum.”

Mr Milsom, who was chairman of the East Anglian Tourist Board for ten years, said: “Here in Colchester there are proposals to build a £150 million visual arts facility, but here in the borough we have already got one with £150 million of paintings. Munnings has become one of the most celebrated painters. All of his paintings are going for millions of pounds.”

He compared Castle House, which has 4,000 visitors a year with Gainsborough's house in Sudbury, which sees 30,000 people each year.

Miller's son Munnings was born in Mendham, near Bungay, in October 1878 and was educated at Redenhall Grammar School and Framlingham College, where he was once caned for drawing when he was not supposed to.

Munnings' first job was at a lithographers' in Norwich and, at the end of his apprenticeship in 1904, he set up a studio in a converted carpenter's shop in Mendham.

He lost the sight in his right eye at the age of 20 after suffering a blow from a briar while lifting a dog over a hedge.

He gained a reputation for his paintings of horses, village characters, landscapes and hunting scenes and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1925. Munnings was the academy's president from 1944 – the year he was knighted – to 1949. He died in 1959.

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