‘I am standing on the course - the most beautiful course in the world: cloudless October sky, a faint wind from the east… I am looking at the scene, the old, old scene - a centuries old scene. Horses come up the course looking like those of years ago… bright colours in the sun just the same as of yore… what a sight for the artist! With the long shadows and the lights on the boots, lights on the horses…this is the best picture I have ever seen…’. (Alfred Munnings, The Finish. 1952, pp. 216 - 17).
Munnings had become resistant to the commissioned work that he felt so constrained his freedom, but more importantly, after the war, he was living again at his country house in Dedham - close enough to the racecourse at Newmarket to allow him to visit regularly throughout the racing season. His favourite subject matter was The Start, combining all the hopes and dreams that it entailed for many watching on.
One of the oldest racing venues in England, hallowed by Royal sponsorship, dating to the 17th Century, Newmarket’s courses were open to the sky and the expansive heathland in a way that newer tracks closer to London were not. In addition to watching three or four races a day, as he often did, Munnings kept a studio right at the track (through the courtesy of the Jockey Club) in an old rubbing barn. As he wrote in 1952, the subject of the present picture held a particular fascination for him ‘Each start was a fresh picture for me, as they have been, meeting after meeting, year after year.’ (ibid Munnings, p.207).
Wildenstein & Company, New York
F. Ambrose Clark, New York, by 1958
By descent to Arthur M. R. Charrington, III, Pennsylvania
His sale Christie's, New York, June 4, 1982, Lot 247
Frost & Reed, Ltd., London
Private Collection, Texas, USA
Sale Sotheby's, New York, June 1, 2000, Lot 159, sold for £1,100,000.
Private Collection, New York, USA
Richard Green Gallery, London, 2005
Private Collection, USA 2006
Rountree Tryon Galleries, 2013
Private Collection, Texas, USA until present day.
London, Royal Academy, 1952, no. 220
New York, Wildenstein & Company, Munnings Exhibition, November 10-28, 1953
E.J. Rousuck, The Collection of F. Ambrose Clark, New York, 1958, illustr. opposite p. 190