A work unlike anything else in the entire Dunbar canon, for which no obvious documentation nor circumstances survive. Central to Dunbar’s fantasy is the tree, with two hearts transpierced by an arrow, the initials E and ? and the date, 1928. To the right the god Pan plays the double aulos, an instrument sometimes associated with orgy in Greek legend. Apart from Pan, there are some 10 human figures in the picture, two nereids, one with a fish tail, and one single foot in the top righthand corner. Of the identifiable figures, four appear to be male, five female and one, with brown tights and an orange top, is half-hidden and might be either. One of the females is mostly underwater, clinging to one of the nereids, who has just dived in. The water is flowered with waterlilies, a symbol of purity. Four of the women have been injured and are bleeding from the mouth, temple or breast. In general the mostly unprepossessing male figures appear to be trying to escape up the tree. One is being prevented from escape by a nereid clinging to his ankle.
In the spring or summer of 1928 Dunbar, then 21, spent some time in Germany, having travelled there via Holland, either alone or in the company of a man. His identity is extremely vague. It may be his indecipherable signature on a painting of a windmill he gave Dunbar, presumably as a souvenir. She kept it for the rest of her life. Despite this, Dunbar never spoke of this episode and subsequently erased everything German from her mental luggage. The above scene, the carving on the tree and the date may have no bearing whatever on her experiences.
We are grateful to Christopher-Campbell Howes, author of Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, for the above text.