Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976)   BIOGRAPHY

Study for ‘The Fifth Station, The Cross is laid upon Simon of Cyrene’, circa 1960
Framed (ref: 503)
Charcoal over intersecting diagonals in red wax crayon, sight size, 21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.(54.6 x 44.5 cm.), overall size 24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)


Literature: Sir Thomas Monnington, exh. cat.. The Fine Art Society, London, 1997, p. 56

Monnington began designs for fourteen Stations of the Cross for St George’s Parish Church, Brede, Sussex, in 1959; he exhibited studies for Jesus Meets his Mother and Jesus Falls for the First Time at the Royal Academy that year.The works were commissioned by the Rector of Brede, the Revd Percy Hill, with the support of Bishop George Bell, who enthusiastically endorsed Hill’s choice: ‘If you could get Monnington it would be wonderful.’ Monnington accepted thecommission at a cost of £100 for each station. He expressed a preference to execute the works as frescoes but, since the surface of the ancient walls did not allow this, painted them instead in tempera on panel.The work took several years to complete, and Monnington became deeply moved by the subject matter. The last four or five stations are markedly different in style from the earlier ones, as Monnington was increasingly drawn towards abstraction. Strong stylistic parallels can be made between Monnington’s Stations and Paul Nash’s twelve wood-cuts for Genesis (Nonesuch Press, London, 1924). 

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

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