Dunbar, Evelyn

(1906 – 1960)

December for the Country Life 1938 Gardeners Diary

SKU: 10233

Pen and ink on paper

Height: 22.5cm
Width: 23cm


The Artist’s Estate

In 1937 Country Life Ltd. ‚Äì a satellite publishing entity of the eponymous magazine ‚Äì commissioned Dunbar to create the 1938 Gardener’s Diary. 

Rich in vignettes and horticultural quotations ranging from the Book of Job to Thomas Hardy, the core artwork in Dunbar’s images of the months, each of which takes human form: female in the gentler months ‚Äì February (idem CAT 65; Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting pages 224/5) with crocus flowers and daffodil shoots in her hat, and April (Lost Works CAT 69; A Life in Painting pages 226/7) jauntily wearing a bird’s-nest hat and carrying attributes of topiary and a garden frame. 

Occasionally these months are autobiographical: April is the month in which Evelyn’s baby by Mahoney would have been born had she not miscarried. July is definitely a male month with its abundance of cabbages and onions, as is November, the season for bonfires and general clearance. Dunbar was not one to waste a good idea or design, and some of these personifications recur as the principal motifs in An English Calendar (Lost Works CAT 71; A Life in Painting pages 229-231), the 6 foot square decoration she painted in 1938. 

Dunbar delighted in personifying abstract conceptions, returning to this device in Seven Days (Lost Works CAT 72; A Life in Painting page 239) and in her projected Faith, Hope and Charity (Lost Works CAT 109). 

We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for assistance.

Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February – 5 April, 2020

Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919–1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020

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Dunbar, Evelyn

1906 – 1960

Evelyn Dunbar studied at Rochester School of Art, Chelsea School
of Art (1927) and the Royal College of Art (1929’33). She painted
murals from 1933 -36 at Brockley School, a collaboration with her
RCA tutor (and lover) Cyril Mahoney (1903’1968) and in 1937
they wrote and illustrated together Gardeners’ Choice. 

In 1938 she set up the Blue Gallery in Rochester, exhibiting her
own work alongside that of Edward Bawden (1903’1989) and
Barnett Freedman (1901’1958) and others. In 1940 she was
appointed an official war artist, becoming the only woman (amongst
36 men) to be given a full time salaried position by the WAAC. 

She held her only solo exhibition at Withersdane, Wye, Kent
in 1953, although the WAAC included numerous pieces in touring
exhibitions ranging from Aberdeen Art Gallery to MOMA, New York. 

A posthumous exhibition was held in 2006 at St Barbe
Museum and Art Gallery, and in 2015 Liss Llewellyn mounted a
major retrospective of her recently rediscovered studio at Pallant
House Gallery. 


Evelyn Dunbar
Study for July, Gardeners Diary 1938, 1937
Evelyn Dunbar
Studies for Mercatora, an allegorical painting (whereabouts unknown) [HMO 173]
Evelyn Dunbar
Colour study for sub-gallery spandrels at Brockley County School for Boys [HMO 551]
Evelyn Dunbar
Portrait of the artist Margaret Goodwin