Sir Thomas Monnington (1902-1976):
Design for Students’ Union, University of London, circa 1969
Framed (ref: 585)
Acrylic on board
17 x 13 in. (43.2 x 33 cm)
Provenance: The Artist's Studio
Exhibited: Sir Thomas Monnington,The Fine Art Society, 1997 (no. 140)
Literature: Paul Liss, Thomas Monnington:The British School at Rome, 1997, repr. p. 54.
In a white gesso shadow box frame with museum glass
‘It has been a failing all my life that I take a long time to resolve a painting problem. I take a year to do one painting because I make innumerablestudies preparing the way … I am now preparing something for the summer exhibition – I expect that I will use that as a basis for the mural’ (interview in the Sunday Express, 1969).
The mural to which Monnington refers, and for which this painting is a study, was commissioned by the Edwin Austin Abbey Trust for Mural Painting in Great Britain, and completed and installed in the early 1970s. It was later removed from the Students’ Union and is assumed to have been destroyed.
Monnington was the first President of the Royal Academy to encourage the exhibition of abstract works at the academy, including his own. Although in 1967 the Chantrey Bequest acquired Square Design 1966 for the Tate Gallery, his significant contribution to post-war art in Britain has since been largely ignored.
Monnington's journey to Abstraction commenced when he was commissioned to paint the ceiling for Bristol Council House in 1953:
Monnington's assistants Scott Medd and W.B. (Peter) Lowe took 11 months to execute the designs. Lowe recalls:Tom maintained that it was difficult to draw angels in the twentieth-century, and was comforted by the enduring qualities of geometry and light.
The design, based on simple geometry, was visualised as over-lapping webs of transparent light extending into and partly veiling the mysteries of space. The ceilings at Bristol and Exeter have matured well unlike the earlier St Stephens Hall and can safely be hailed as twentieth century masterpieces, and the studies for them, prepared with the precision and patience of a master, appear today both strong and vital.(Peyton Skipwith, Thomas Monnington, published by Paul Liss in association with The Fine Art Society, 1997, p.9.)