Although Gunn is best known as one of the foremost British portraitists of the twentieth century, his career began as a painter of landscapes. He travelled widely in Europe and North Africa, and produced works that reflect a love of painting outdoors, and an understanding of subject matter akin to that of Lavery, Whistler and Sargent.
After exhibiting at Colnaghi in 1927, where it is thought he met his second wife Marie Pauline Miller, Gunn travelled to Rome in 1928 where she was working for Elizabeth Arden. The couple were to marry in Paris in 1929, but in the meantime, Gunn was able to produce numerous paintings for an exhibition entitled Paintings of Rome etc. by James Gunn held at the Fine Art Society held in February of that year. These included the present lot. Comparable to The Garden of the Villa d'Este (sold Christie's, London, 7 June 1990, lot 48, see Fig.1), The Campagna, by the Appian Way demonstrates Gunn's mastery of landscape painting. The clear, defined lines of the cypress trees and umbrella pines, blended with the Mediterranean hues, vividly encapsulate the Campagna, while the light spontaneity of the work indicates that it was painted en plein air.
We are grateful to Chloë Blackburn for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.