Privately Held

Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)

Seven Days

SKU: 6719
Signed and dated, inscribed on stretcher ‘Design for mural’

oil on canvas.

Size:
Height – 45.8cm
Width – 76.2cm

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
Roger Folley; Alasdair Dunbar; Hammer Mill Oast Collection
Presentation:
framed

Exhibited: Corn Exchange, Rochester, May 1939; Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 72.

Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, eds Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat. 72, page 110, 112-113;

Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.382.

Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, Christopher Campbell-Howes, October 2016, pages 238-240.

Seven Days, one of Dunbar’s most intriguing – and powerful – allegorical paintings, has ‘Design for a mural’ written on the frame and scrawled on the back. Completed in 1938, it was exhibited in May 1939 at the Corn Exchange, Rochester, with this subtitle. What mural this refers to is not known. There’s an unusual clue to its destiny as a mural design: several extraneous red transfer lines remain on the canvas. Which way should we read the figures? Left to right, the normal direction we read in, or right to left, following the group from the light to the dark, following the increasing length of the shadows? Does it matter? I think it does, maybe in the Kierkegaardian sense of life being lived forwards but understood backwards. On one level Seven Days is all about gardening, with one telling exception. Moving from left to right, Numbers 2 and 3 (the woman with the lily and hydrangeas), 4 and 5 all carry references to making things grow, to looking after creation, even at the level of the garden, in return, as is usual in Dunbar’s work, for having been given it by the Creator. Number 6 sums up the benefits: she’s carrying a basket of fruit, probably plums. Then Number 7, whom we can now confidently associate with Sunday, is reading, attending to things of the mind. Maybe it’s her Bible, we don’t know, but significantly behind her there’s a door in the wall, maybe opening on to wider horizons and brighter truths. The top of the wall is strongly lit, suggesting that whatever lies beyond it basks in sunlight. On another level Seven Days is a personal statement. In preliminary sketches Number 1 is carrying a baby, her own particular harvest and promise for the future. Why did Dunbar change her to a woman carrying washing? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that a little before the design of Seven Days was finalised Dunbar miscarried. The father was Charles Mahoney, her colleague and lover, formerly her Royal College of Art tutor. They weren’t married. Their relationship came apart as her pregnancy was confirmed. The miscarriage and separation was a time of terrible misery for her, leading to what Dunbar called her ‘crisis’ years, which only ended with her 1940 appointment as a war artist. Christopher Campbell-Howes

We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for assistance.

Disclaimer:
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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. 

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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
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Clara Cowling gardening, circa 1928
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Felbridge, circa 1926
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Waternymphomania, circa 1928
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RCA Sketch Club Summer Camp, 1930
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A diagrammatic explanation of trenching or double digging
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August, 1937
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Joseph’s Dream, 1938
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Design for June for the Country Life 1938 Gardeners Diary
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Design for unused title page of Gardener’s Choice, circa 1936
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Study II for designs for an embroidered quilt [HMO 689]
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Study I for designs for an embroidered quilt [HMO 689]
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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)
Study at Sparsholt Farm Institute for A Land Girl and the Bail Bull, 1944 [HMO 40]
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Singling Turnips, 1943
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Seven Days
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
April,1937
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Sacking Potatoes, 1948
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The Woodcutter and the Bees, spring 1933 [HMO 309]
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Colour study for sub-gallery spandrels at Brockley County School for Boys [HMO 551]
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
The Dunbar family in the Garden at The Cedars, Spring (Version 1), c.1928 (HMO 75)
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Evelyn Dunbar (1906 - 1960)
Portrait of the artists mother, Florence, on a bentwood rocking chair, c.1930 [HMO 797]
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Go Shell, proposed design for Shell petrol. c.1937 [HMO 751]
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Land Workers at Strood, c. 1938 [HMO 762]
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The Childrens Shop: mice (recto), birds (verso) [HMO 749]
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Sleeping Beauty, 10 minute sketch, c.1928 (HMO 786)
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Milking Practice with Artificial Udders, 1940
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Autumn and the Poet, 1948-1960
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Portrait of the artist Margaret Goodwin
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