There were always dogs present in the Dunbar household, and occasionally they find their way into Dunbar’s work. Felbridge is a sympathetic solo study of the Welsh terrier-cum-lurcher the Dunbars had from about 1918 until 1928, when he was replaced by an Aberdeen terrier called Paul.
Felbridge is seen asleep on the kitchen floor at 224, High Street, Rochester, Kent, the house the Dunbars occupied from 1913-24, when they moved to a larger and more opulent house called The Cedars. A shaft of low sunlight has illuminated the sleeping dog, bringing out the full colours and texture of his head, muzzle and hind leg. Acutely sensitive to colour, Dunbar (who was in her
mid-teens at the time of painting) would have sketched the dog hurriedly, making notes of the shades and subtleties of colouring in situ before working her sketch up in oils in her studio. The better to emphasise the effect of sunlight on the dog’s coat, Dunbar has painted the kitchen chair and the dog’s blanket in muted colours, while the blue wall behind, whether in fact it was blue or not,
presents a contrasting foil to the bright orangey-browns and flames of Felbridge’s fur. When he has woken up he will show himself in a different character, alert and expectant, as in Dunbar’s accompanying pencil sketch of about 1922. Or maybe feeling woebegone and hard done by, as in her pen and wash sketch from the same period.
We are grateful to Christopher-Campbell Howes, author of Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, for the above text.