Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976)   BIOGRAPHY

Lysander, circa 1942
Framed (ref: 1043)
Inscribed and titled by the artist's son, John.
In a square section gilded oak frame with broad oak inner slip, pencil and pen and ink on tracing paper, 5 1/8 x 6 1/4 in. (13 x 16 cm.)


Monnington was passionate about aircraft - by the time he applied to become an official War Artist he had completed over 600 hours of flying time, having worked during the early part of the war in the Design Team of the Directorate of Camouflage.  Whilst posted at the Brooklands race track he met Barnes Wallis – inventor of the Wellington Bomber and the bouncing bomb – who asked Monnington to apply his talent to improving the appearance of a heavy bomber which was being developed at the time, (two designs for which are in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum). Much in the same vien the Lysander shown here is a developmental design – Monnington’s view of what an enhanced Lysander might look like.  Lydansers were used in the early part of the war for dropping SIS officers into France, the very long undercarriage and wide wheel base allowing for landing  in fields at speeds as slow as 40 mph.   The Royal Air Force (Handbook) by Eric Sargeant, circa 1941, descirbes The Lysander as follows: a very fine aeroplane which has performed many diverse operations during this war. Among its duties are reconnaissance, artillary spotting, delivery of food and ammunition, etc. to beleaguered troops, message-dropping and picking-up, light boming etc.  Monnington's enhanced design shows elongated wings and a wider wheel base.

We are grateful to John Monnington for assistance.

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976)

Painter, especially of murals. Born in London, he studied at the Slade School in 1918-23 and was Rome Scholar in 1923-26. He married fellow Rome Scholar Winifred Knights in 1924. Among his public works are a decoration for St Stephen's Hall, Westminster, 1928, and the new Council House in Bristol, 1956. Monnington taught drawing at the Royal Academy Schools, 1931-39, and in 1949 joined the staff of the Slade, whose strong linear tradition marked his own work. Monnington is represented in a number of public galleries, including the Tate, British Museum and Imperial War Museum. He was elected RA in 1938, became its President in 1966 and was knighted in 1967. There was a memorial exhibition at the RA in 1977. Another traveled from the British School at Rome to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and the Fine Art Society in 1997. From the 1940s Monnington lived in Groombridge, Kent; the local landscape inspired much of his post-war work. Monnington was one of the outstanding draughtsmen of his generation. He had a considerable influence as a teacher (Euan Uglow was among his pupils), and was one of the most effective of the twentieth-century presidents of the RA, turning around the Academy's ailing fortunes. Remarkably he was the first president of the Academy to produce abstract paintings and indeed made no distinction between abstract and figurative art: "Surely what matters is not whether a work is abstract or representative, but whether it has merit. If those who visit exhibitions would come without preconceptions, would apply to art the elementary standards they apply in other spheres, they might glimpse new horizons. They might ask themselves: is this work distinguished or is it commonplace? Fresh and original or uninspired, derivative and dull? Is it modest or pretentious?" (Interview in the Christian Science Monitor, 29.5.67).

Selected Literature: Judy Egerton, Sir Thomas Monnington, Royal Academy of Arts, 1977 Paul Liss, Sir Thomas Monnington, British School at Rome/Fine Art Society plc, 1997

See all works by Sir Thomas Monnington