Buildings of any kind are a rarity in Munnings's oeuvre with the few exceptions when he was painting scenes at racetracks or stable yards and then they feature only subtly. Of pictures known of churches there are only Dedham, Mendham, Polstead (in Suffolk near Dedham), Morston (near Blakeney, Norfolk) and Luccombe. During his time as an apprentice to a Norwich firm of lithographers, he would frequently spend free time on his bicycle, wandering in and out of churches, 'with a friend from the School of Art, on bicycles ... did I cover the face of Norfolk. We must have seen the inside of every church, and as my friend was studying stained-glass design, as well as architecture, our jaunts were full of interest' (see A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 52).
With the outbreak of the Second World War, Munnings's home, Castle House, was requisitioned, so he moved to Withypool on Exmoor, where his wife maintained a hunting lodge. During the war years Munnings sought out inspiration and rode all over Exmoor from his base at Withypool, around the moors and up to the coast and to Luccombe, about 10 miles away.
The church of Luccombe no doubt stirred nostalgic memories from his past church visits, for not only did he paint this view of Luccombe, he painted another (see A.J. Munnings, The Finish, London, 1952, p. 64, illustrated). Perhaps he liked the simplicity of lines of the straight church tower as it rose sharply into the air in contrast with the intangible shape of the trees' foliage, or perhaps he was comparing the permanence of the oak trees with the solidity of the neighbouring man-made structures. Or perhaps he just sought to set down the various shapes which composed the scene. Like Cezanne, Munnings has reduced nature to its simple geometric forms, lending it stability, weight and a sense of underlying structural unity. The overlapping planes of colour create the illusion of depth.
The present work will be included in the catalogue raisonné of Sir Alfred Munnings being prepared by Lorian Peralta-Ramos.