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Sir Alfred Munnings (1878—1959) artist

Art Deco


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British painter, a rebellious figure who dressed like a man (enjoying the embarrassment this caused) and adopted her monosyllabic name—‘no prefix, suffix, or quotes’—because she thought the sex of the painter was irrelevant. She was born into the family that founded the J. Lyon & Co. catering empire and had the wealth to indulge her eccentricities. She studied at St John's Wood School of Art, 1913–16, and was encouraged by Munnings. In the 1920s and 1930s she become well known for portraits and formal flowerpieces (she was a friend of the flower arranger Constance Spry), exhibiting with great success at the Fine Art Society, London. Her pictures were painted with fashionable panache in an Art Deco style and in 1932 she designed and patented a frame in keeping with them: it consisted of three white bands stepped back from the picture so that, in her own words, ‘the usual essence of all frames was reversed and instead of the outer edge dominating, it was made to die away into the wall and cease to be a separate feature’. After the Second World War she faded from prominence and in the 1950s and 1960s she devoted much of her time to an obsessive campaign to improve the quality of artists' materials. Near the end of her life she returned to the limelight with a retrospective exhibition at the Fine Art Society in 1973.

Subjects: Art.

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