In September 1929 Dunbar started her three-year Associate course at the Royal College of Art (RCA), to which she had won a Kent County Council exhibition. One of the features of her first year course was the annual sketching club camp, held under canvas for a few days at the end of the summer term. Students were expected to compile a portfolio of work for exhibition the following December. Relics of this portfolio, mostly in water-colour, are minimal.
RCA Sketch Club Summer Camp, 1930′ has a Z-shape organisation that she made her constructional standby, and which appears in so many of her illustrative paintings: from a base line along the foot of the painting, the narrative and associated kinetic energy starts at the lower left-hand corner and rises diagonally across the canvas towards the top right hand corner, where there may be some wry comment, some hidden irony or even a joke. In this case the diagonal plane contrasts male inactivity – one man reading the paper, the other, beyond the green tent, apparently asleep – with female activity, a girl making a portrait sketch of the girl in the yellow top (who has some resemblance to Dunbar’s RCA friend Margaret Goodwin), another girl combing her hair, and at the upper angle of the Z, another girl unobtrusively making her way through the bushes (we can suppose) to what Dunbar in her Girl Guide days would have known as the ‘wet pit’ or the ‘dry pit’.
We are grateful to Christopher-Campbell Howes, author of Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, for the above text.