The late 1930s saw an outpouring of gardening images from Dunbar. Gardeners’ Choice, a revolutionary gardening primer, based on a study of 40 unconventional flowering plants, written and illustrated by Dunbar and her then lover Cyril Charles’ Mahoney, appeared to critical acclaim in late 1937. Dunbar designed, illustrated and chose the monthly texts for 1938 Gardener’s Diary, a satellite publication of the magazine Country Life. Dunbar and Mahoney separated in 1937, leaving Dunbar to go her own way. Her mother Florence and her aunt Clara Cowling were devoted and committed gardeners. Dunbar inherited their horticultural gifts and energy, besides seeing in gardens a metaphor for mankind’s relationship with the Creator. Almost invariably her garden images, many of them taken and elaborated from her earlier pen-and-ink illustrations, have some deeper meaning, sometimes profound, sometimes ‚Äì as here ‚Äì fairly slight. In this case Dunbar has taken a vignette from p.26 of Gardeners’ Choice, in which the figures are perhaps Dunbar herself on the right and her mother or aunt on the left, and has worked it up into oils. The gate is open, inviting the viewer to climb a short flight of steps and to wander freely among the lush spaces within. The greens are symphonic in their variety, with a richness enhanced by Dunbar’s particularly sensitive feeling for colour, enriched by her lavish and energetic brushwork
We are grateful to Christopher-Campbell Howes, author of Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, for the above text.