The inspiration for the present work was Robert Louis Stevenson's novel, Treasure Island (1883). Set in the eighteenth century, the book tells of young Jim Hawkins's adventures amongst buccaneers and pirates, including the infamous Long John Silver, as he searches for Captain Flint's treasure.
Working as an apprentice lithographer at Page Bros. in the 1890s, Munnings made good use of the Free Library below Norwich School of Art. The books he read inspired a number of monochromatic compositions, some of which were shown at the Norwich Art Circle's annual Black and White Exhibitions. 'Many an evening did I sit late over the dining-room table ... after the others had gone to bed, working on imagined pictures of conspirators' (An Artist's life, Bungay, 1950, p. 75).