Dunbar, Evelyn

(1906 – 1960)

RCA Sketch Club Summer Camp, 1930


SKU: 11174

Oil on board

Height: 37.5cm
Width: 43.8cm

1 in stock


The Artist’s Studio; thence by descent

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 ‚Äì one man reading the paper, the other, beyond the green tent, apparently asleep ‚Äì 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.

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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