Completed in June 1940, Putting on Anti-Gas Protective Clothing, now in the Imperial War Museum, was the first of
Dunbar’s war paintings. Immediately on her appointment the previous April as an official war artist she was posted to
Bisham Abbey, Berkshire, where the Women’s Voluntary Service organised training courses, later taken over Civil
Defence, to relieve civilian war casualties, particularly by bombing and the expected enemy gas attacks. (In the event,
gas was never used.) In July 1940 the National Gallery included this painting in an exhibition of wartime art. It was also
included in the Britain at War exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York the following year.
The nine boxes seen in this study were eventually reduced to six in the final composition, to compact the progression
and give it more urgency.