George Heywood Maunoir Sumner was born at Old Alresford in Hampshire and after finishing school at Eton studied law at Oxford and in London, qualifying as a barrister in 1881. WAS Benson, who later became a well known designer of art metalwork in the Arts & Crafts style, was a fellow student and introduced Sumner to William Morris and his circle in the Arts & Crafts Movement. Sumner later married Agnes, Benson’s sister and in 1897, owing to his wife’s ill health, retired from London to live first in Bournemouth and in 1904 at Gorley in the New Forest.
Like his brother in law Benson, Sumner was a talented artist and draughtsman, skills he used to good effect to illustrate the books he published or illustrated during his time at Gorley, but also as a visual record of his studies into the local archaeology.
In 1908 Sumner was commissioned to design a tapestry to be woven at Morris’ Merton Abbey tapestry workshop which resulted in ‘The Chace’, also in the Museums Service collection. However this little watercolour appears to have been a private work produced for pleasure and as a record of the autumn New Forest landscape. He wrote of Gorley that it was: “this beautiful place… Our days here begin over the Forest, and end behind the Chase. Eastward… lies the New Forest. Westward… rise the long ridges of Cranborne Chase”.