The artist painting on Exmoor is a rare self portrait of Munnings at work, epitomising his love of plein air painting. Yet it was executed soon after he had been elected President of the Royal Academy and he wryly captioned the illustration of it in his autobiography: ‘Back on Exmoor I was working again, not able to realise what I had taken on’ (Munnings, op. cit., 1950, p. 72). Munnings, a countryman at heart, had a particular love of the dramatic and distinctive landscapes around Exmoor in Devon and Withypool in particular, where he and his wife had a house. The works that Munnings produced there have an especially intimate and personal feel since typically they were unsolicited and painted purely for pleasure. In 1940 Castle House, in Dedham, their principal residence, was requisitioned by the army and they decamped to Exmoor on a more permanent basis. But with his election as P.R.A. his Exmoor idyll was intruded upon with a stream of letters, telegrams and requests to attend the Academy in war-torn London.
The painting will be included the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the work of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos.