Painting of Suffolk artist’s fateful first wife on sale for £185,000
PUBLISHED: 08:30 09 July 2015 | UPDATED: 08:30 09 July 2015
An oil painting of Sir Alfred Munnings’ first wife, who committed suicide at the age of 25 after being parted from her secret lover, is up for sale at £185,000 in London.
The work titled Portrait of Florence Munnings at Sunset, was painted by the East Anglian painter in 1912 – the year he married artist Florence Carter-Wood.
Florence, affectionately known as Blote, was so unhappy with Munnings and with the way her life had turned out that she even tried to kill herself on their honeymoon.
Two years later on July 24, 1914, she committed suicide by swallowing cyanide.
After her death, Munnings, who grew up in Mendham near Harleston, never spoke of Florence again. She is not mentioned in his three-volume autobiography and he did not mention her in his Who’s Who entry.
The 2013 film Summer in February, starring Dominic Cooper as Munnings and Emily Browning as Florence, tells the story of Munnings’ ill-fated first marriage, how he left Florence in Cornwall while he often went to London and how she fell in love with a young land agent named Gilbert Evans, played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens.
Set between 1912 and 1914, when Munnings was in his early 30s, it depicts his time as a member of the Newlyn School, an artists’ colony in Cornwall, where he lived alongside fellow painters Dame Laura Knight and her husband Harold.
There Munnings met Florence, a troubled young artist 14 years his junior who joined the colony attempting to escape her upper-class background. She became Munnings’ muse and lover, and is depicted in his painting, Two Lady Riders Under An Evening Sky, the only portrait of her that Munnings kept.
The film is based on Evans’ personal diaries, and depicts both men falling in love with Florence.
But the affair caused Evans so much anguish that he fled Britain in 1914 for a new life in Africa, and Florence committed suicide shortly afterwards. She is buried at Sancreed churchyard, near Penzance. The headstone says: “Edith Florence-‘Blote’ – first wife of A.J.Munnings Sept 4, 1888 - July 24, 1914.”
The 20 inches by 24 inches painting is on sale at Messum’s Art Gallery in London.
Do you have any memories of the Munnings family? Email firstname.lastname@example.org