Munnings said, “If you paint a tree, jolly well make it look like a tree.” Some people still say that, and I disagree. That is not art, but craft: it has been done before so often that it is no longer worth doing. I want a work of art to say something new, in a new way.
Though it is ironic that I express this commonplace sentiment, and cannot make even the expression remotely original.
Dr James Fox in his BBC4 series “British Masters” said- “I disagree. Of course I do. But given that he believed that, I love him for saying it.” It was a view widely attacked in 1949 when Munnings said it in a drunken speech which he had perhaps forgotten was broadcast on BBC radio. He was President of the Royal Academy of Arts, which still has the clinging odour of philistinism.
Munnings could paint a horse to look like a horse. This, in 1918, was “the last great cavalry charge”- the Polish cavalry against German tanks in 1939 does not count, apparently, and I find myself wondering what on Earth the Germans were doing. Had they no machine guns?