Private Collection

Evelyn Dunbar
(1906 - 1960)

Study at Sparsholt Farm Institute for A Land Girl and the Bail Bull, 1944 [HMO 40]

SKU: 6729
Pen & ink on paper
13 x 21 in. (33 x 53 cm)

Size:
Height – 33cm
Width – 53cm

DESCRIPTION

Exhibited: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 92.
WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 103.

Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat. 92page 138-139.
WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 103, page 148.

Bail’ was originally an Australian term for a movable wooden halter or series of halters in which to tether cows in order to milk them in the field rather than drive them to the dairy. Its meaning was extended to include the wheeled shed housing the milking pump engines.

Wartime
“The Country Girl and the Pail of Milk at Brockley (FIG 11) was a strangely prescient
subject in view of Evelyn Dunbar’s later work as a war artist. Her career had gone into
the doldrums at the end of the 1930s, but the war gave her the opportunity to create
paintings and illustrations for which her skills seemed especially well suited, moving out
of the garden and into the productive landscape peopled by dungareed volunteers of
the Women’s Land Army. In addition, she recorded other subjects on the home front’,
such as the fish queue in the high street of Strood (FIG 18), or the knitting circle in a
comfortable middle class house (FIG 7).
In these varied subjects, Dunbar’s keen observation and skill in drawing and
composition paid off in paintings of relatively large scale. They were criticized at the
time for being insufficiently dramatic, but that does not diminish their value today,
when we have become equally interested in the experiences of non-combatants. Two
things stand out from these paintings. One is the didactic quality of many of them,
which can be related to the illustrations Dunbar made at Sparsholt Farm Institute for
use in Michael Greenhill’s A Book of Farmcraft, 1942 (FIG 16). From Hesiod to Thomas
Tusser, there has been a tradition of using verbal art to convey practical rural wisdom,
but the visual element was now added, helping land girls avoid elementary mistakes.
Milking Practice with Artificial Udders, 1940 (CAT 85), the final version of which is in
the Imperial War Museum, shows intense concentration yet has an edge of comedy.
The physical and psychological demands of farm work are perhaps most apparent
in A Land Girl and the Bail Bull, 1945 (Tate, London) (FIG 19), a work that required
early rising to catch the atmosphere and action involved, described by her as a
delicate and dangerous job’. It is a complex composition,and we can see how, in the
preparatory drawings (CAT 92-93), the academic method worked to good effect. The
study for Potato Sorting, Berwick (FIG 20) is in some ways more interesting than the
finished work because of the sense of movement in the overlaid outlines of the figures.
Men Stooking and Girls Learning to Stook (CAT 100) is unusual in technique for Dunbar,
with a pointilliste treatment of the newly cut field more like Ravilious than her usual work.
The catalogue of actions depicted makes the whole process easily understandable, successfully holding the disparate composition together. She did not underestimate
the difficulties involved, writing in October 1943, when the terms under which her
appointment as a War Artist might be continued were under discussion. Anyone who
paints a figure composition knows that it takes often much longer than 10 days.’ The
Advisory Committee acknowledged her need for more time.
The drawings for Joseph’s Dream (CAT 104-106) also give us the chance to see Dunbar’s
process at work in a different kind of subject, as they move from what is essentially
illustration to become the basis for a haunting metaphysical painting, a foretaste of her
more imaginative post-war work.”
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. 

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Felbridge, circa 1926
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RCA Sketch Club Summer Camp, 1930
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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 of a figure gardening possibly for Gardener’s Diary
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Joseph in Prison, 1949-50
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Study for July, Gardeners Diary 1938, 1937
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Study II for designs for an embroidered quilt [HMO 689]
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Self-portrait, [HMO 766], 1958
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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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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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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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The Dunbar family in the Garden at The Cedars, Spring (Version 1), c.1928 (HMO 75)
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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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