Monnington, Sir Thomas

(1902 – 1976)

Cartoon for Winter, circa 1921

Chalk and gouche on brown paper 

48 x 85 in. (122 x 216 cm.)


The British School at Rome, Lowther Gardens, London; Sotheby’s, London 14th October 1987.

Exhibition of works submitted in the final competitions for the Rome
Scholarship of 1922, Royal Academy, February 1922; International
Exhibition of Modern and Decorative Industrial Art, Paris, April-October
1925, British Section, Grand Palais (309).

Literature: Illustrated London News, 10th March 1923, Vol 162, p. 366, (finsihed painting reproduced); Sam Smiles, Inspired by Italy, Exeter Museum and Art Gallery, August – September 1996; British Murals and Decorative Painting 1920-1960, Sansom & Co, 2013

was Monnington’s winning submission for the 1922 British School at
Rome Scholarship in Decorative Painting. The landscape is based on
studies looking towards Clerebury Rings near Salisbury, undertaken
during visits in 1921 to the artist’s cousin Dr. R.C Monnington. In a
review in the Observer, (22nd February 1922), P.C. Konody praised
Monnington’s painting for being ‘steeped in the best traditions of the
Italian Renaissance. His colour is dull, but there is a marked sense
of style in his design’.

A link with the Italian Renaissance can be demonstrated more
specifically in relation to the work of Piero della Francesca: the young
peasant leaning with both hands on a spade is a possible echo from the
Discovery and Proving of the True Cross (San Francesco, Arezzo). The
man sitting on a rock in the middle of the composition appears to be
based on the figure of St. Joseph (in reverse) in Piero della
Francesca’s Adoration. I am grateful to Professor Luciano Chelles for
these observations.

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Monnington, Sir Thomas

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


Sir Thomas Monnington
Design for the ceiling of the Mary Harris Memorial Chapel, (pale ground) University of Exeter, 1956