Private Collection

Evelyn Dunbar
(1906 - 1960)

Self-portrait, [HMO 766], 1958

SKU: 6772
Signed and dated
Oil on canvas

Size:
Height – 49.5cm
Width – 29.4cm

DESCRIPTION

Exhibited: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 113.

Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat 113page 160-161.

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.301.

Painted in her studio at Staple Farm, near Wye, Kent, this was the last self-portrait Dunbar undertook.

Post War

“At the end of the war, Dunbar was still only 38 years old. Married in 1942 to Roger Folley, she was able to spend time with him at last, setting up home firstly in Warwickshire, thenin Oxfordshire, finally in Kent. In a manner similar to Stanley Spencer, to whose work her Joseph’s Dream (FIG 21) was not unexpectedly compared, she had worked in a personal and mystical mode as well as in a more objective observational one. Dunbar’s Portrait of a Retired Schoolmistress (CAT 110) is compelling in its directness, with the sitter’s determined gaze, solid figure and floral patterned overall. The black line between the shoulders forms the base for an equilateral triangle to the crown of the head. Her self-portrait (CAT 113) has the quality found in some of Spencer’s of being caught off guard in the act of painting, as the awkward positioning of the legs seems to suggest.

In Flying Applepickers (CAT 107), the theme of levitation, used at Brockley in the

soffits of the balcony, returns. Is it a metaphor of liberation after the years of pre-war unhappiness in love, followed by the privations and war? No doubt this theme of weightless bodies emanates from the spiritual seeking of a Christian Scientist, but it is also delightfully comic, with more tenderness than is found in most of Spencer’s comparable works of supernatural events in Cookham High Street. Such compositions were falling out of fashion in the post-war world, but this did not prevent Dunbar from working on a series of allegorical and deliberately mysterious paintings that continue the pastoral romantic tradition in which she was trained, as her companion painter at Brockley, Mildred Eldridge, was to do with her cycle, The Dance of Life, painted for the Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen in the Welsh Marches. They shared a belief that humans are most complete when close to the rhythms of the natural world, to which

Eldridge brought a more mistrustful view of civilisation’. These are themes of urgent contemporary relevance and far from sentimental.

Several of Dunbar’s major late works remain to be relocated and revealed. Autumn and the Poet (CAT 114) has the look of a post-war painting in its brushwork and slightly distorted drawing (with a hint of John Minton, perhaps), which pulls away from the more purely classical pre-war works. The iconography of poet and his fecund pin-headed muse, characterized as a season but more representative of nature as a whole, continues the celebratory quality of Dunbar’s painting of the numinous landscape as shaped by man, very different from Minton’s more sinister evocations. Lines in the composition tie the surface together in a root two rectangle, while leading the eye into the distance by

a double perspective.

Dunbar’s last mural commission, Alpha and Omega (CAT 111), painted for the library at Bletchley Park Training College, fortunately survives, although not in situ. The many studies that came with the two paintings to Oxford Brookes University show Dunbar’s range of experiment in finding an appropriate iconography for a modern dress allegory.

Both panels have the unforced otherworldly quality that Dunbar found early on and which stayed with her to the sadly early end.”

Alan Powers

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THE ARTIST

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. 

MORE PICTURES BY ARTIST

Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Industry and Sloth, c.1932
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Clara Cowling gardening, circa 1928
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Felbridge, circa 1926
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
RCA Sketch Club Summer Camp, 1930
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Joseph’s Dream, 1938
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
The Garden at the Elms
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
December for the Country Life 1938 Gardeners Diary
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Design for June for the Country Life 1938 Gardeners Diary
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Design for unused title page of Gardener’s Choice, circa 1936
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Study of a figure gardening possibly for Gardener’s Diary
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Joseph in Prison, 1949-50
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Study for July, Gardeners Diary 1938, 1937
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Study II for designs for an embroidered quilt [HMO 689]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Self-portrait, [HMO 766], 1958
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been [HMO 333]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Study I for designs for an embroidered quilt [HMO 689]
Forthcoming
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Three sketchbooks
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Studies for Mercatora, an allegorical painting (whereabouts unknown) [HMO 173]
£2,500.00
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Dorset, 1947-1948
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Jacobs Dream, 1960
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Men Stooking and Girls Learning to Stook. 1940
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Singling Turnips, 1943
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Study at Sparsholt Farm Institute for A Land Girl and the Bail Bull, 1944 [HMO 40]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Seven Days
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
April,1937
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
The Woodcutter and the Bees, spring 1933 [HMO 309]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Sacking Potatoes, 1948
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Colour study for sub-gallery spandrels at Brockley County School for Boys [HMO 551]
£2,350.00
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
The Dunbar family in the Garden at The Cedars, Spring (Version 1), c.1928 (HMO 75)
Forthcoming
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Portrait of the artists mother, Florence, on a bentwood rocking chair, c.1930 [HMO 797]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Go Shell, proposed design for Shell petrol. c.1937 [HMO 751]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Land Workers at Strood, c. 1938 [HMO 762]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
The Childrens Shop: mice (recto), birds (verso) [HMO 749]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Sleeping Beauty, 10 minute sketch, c.1928 (HMO 786)
Forthcoming
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Milking Practice with Artificial Udders, 1940
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Autumn and the Poet, 1948-1960
Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Portrait of the artist Margaret Goodwin
£2,950.00