A collection of items, many never seen before, go on display at The National Heritage Centre in Newmarket

The National Heritage Centre at Palace House in Newmarket has partnered with The Munnings Art Museum

The National Heritage Centre at Palace House in Newmarket has partnered with The Munnings Art Museum, in Dedham, Essex, to present this extraordinary new exhibition of racing scenes by Sir Alfred Munnings - Credit: Archant

A prestigious exhibition opens in Newmarket with rarely seen work from an artist who catures the peace before race day and the tension as it begins.

The National Heritage Centre at Palace House in Newmarket has partnered with The Munnings Art Museum, in Dedham, Essex, to present racing scenes by Sir Alfred Munnings.

The exhibition reveals the impact of Newmarket, Epsom and other well-known courses, horses and owners on one of Britain’s greatest equestrian artists.

Chris Garibaldi, director at the National Heritage Centre said: “We are very excited to be hosting this new exhibition.

“Sir Alfred Munnings’ work is of extraordinary quality, and this exhibition highlights the profound influence Newmarket had on his work. There is a very special relationship with Munnings and the site at the Heritage Centre that used to be owned by the Rothschild family, who commissioned him to paint their racehorses.

“Unfortunately these works were destroyed in a bombing during the war and Munnings regarded it as one of the great tragedies of his working life that these pictures were lost.

“It feels as though this exhibition very much belongs here in Newmarket and we are incredibly grateful to be working in partnership with The Munnings Art Museum.”

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It includes artwork rarely seen together on public display.

Dr Bill Teatheredge, curatorial associate at The Munnings Art Museum and curator of this exhibition said: “Munnings was often tormented by the need to produce a near photogenic likeness of a thoroughbred horse. This exhibition explores how he refined his impressionistic techniques and then indulged them in his passion for all things Newmarket.”

Jenny Hand, Director of The Munnings Art Museum said: “There is no better place to celebrate Sporting Art at its best than in Newmarket.

“We hope that race and art lovers alike will discover more about Munnings, man and artist”.

Art fans say Sir Munnings has the ability to ‘sculpt’ the figure of a horse in paint and ‘Painting Winners’ explores the techniques he developed to do this through his drawings and sketchbooks, painted studies and completed canvases.

Late paintings of horses being trained on Newmarket Heath demonstrate how the artist re-visited the impressionist style of his youth in contrast to the ‘slick and repetitive’ style of his earlier equestrian portraits, which often received criticism.

The exhibition also exposes the angst of ‘the tortured artist’ in trying to achieve the true likeness of a thoroughbred horse to be scrutinised by patrons and horse lovers alike.

The exhibition will include the start of the race and studies of empty stands and paddocks which describe the peacefulness of the course before the explosion of the race itself.

Though drawn to Newmarket as an artist, Munnings also had a personal affinity for the town which is demonstrated through a recently discovered poem, ‘I’ll fly away at midnight, whilst a star will lead me on along the broad highway Towards Newmarket for another day.’

Included in the displays are personal items and ephemera including the tools of his trade, palettes, smock and brushes which come together to create an exciting new exhibition about this celebrated artist.

• The exhibition is open from August 23 to April 2018. The display includes Sir Munnings’ drawings, sketchbooks, studies and the finished pieces.