In 1899 Munnings exhibited at the Royal Academy's Summer exhibition for the first time with Stranded, 1898 (Bristol City Art Gallery) and Pike Fishing in January, 1898 (private collection). When his apprenticeship at Page Bros. came to an end that year he turned down their generous offer to continue working there. He wished to concentrate on establishing himself as a painter and so left Norwich to set up a small studio in a carpenter's shop in his native Mendham.
During these early years at Mendham he often painted small costume pictures for Jim Boswell, a Norwich art dealer, to earn some spending money. 'Gradually, through the Norwich Art Circle and Boswells, a firm of dealers in that city, my pictures became known and were sold at moderate prices ... Boswell's sold antiques and pictures, mostly of the Norwich School, which were hung in a very good top lit gallery. Upstairs was a room full of bottles, brushes and varnish, where old pictures were restored by an expert named Whiting. If I was in Norwich on a visit, and so inclined, in the absence of Mr Whiting, I painted pictures of all kinds in that room, and Boswell bought them for a few guineas. These were pictures of knaves and thieves, of ghosts and folk with lanterns in the snow' (see A.J. Munnings, An Artist's Life, Bungay, 1950, p. 82).