We are delighted to bring to the market a collection of Evelyn Dunbar's works, previously never exhibited.
Evelyn was born in Reading on the 18th December 1906 and was the youngest of five children. She was the daughter of William and Florence. Her father was a tailor and her mother, a keen gardener and amateur Artist.
In 1913 the family moved to Rochester and Evelyn attended Rochester Grammar School for Girls. Her passion for art started at an early age and she created this painting, depicting her class mates. It is an interesting painting as she chose to paint them facing away, she was always intrigued by different perspectives and angles.
'' Learned Scholars'' Via 1925 Class 6A, © Sarah Hill, Tigers Decorative
Evelyn then went on to study at Rochester school of Art, 1925 - 1927, followed by Chelsea School of Art, 1927 - 1929. In 1929 she won an exhibition to study at the Royal College of Art and graduated in 1933. In 1940 the Tate gallery bought ‘’Study For Decoration: Flight.
''Study For Decoration: Flight'' © Tate Gallery
The Brockley murals were commissioned by Brockley County secondary school, Lewisham (now Prendergast School) These murals are considered some of the most important achievements of 20th century mural painting.
Brockley Mural – ‘The Country Girl and the Pail of Milk’ 1933 - 1934
Charles Mahoney was one of Evelyn’s tutors at The Royal College of Art, Dunbar and Mahoney worked on Brockley school for three years together and became lovers.
Evelyn wrote many love letters to Mahoney, over their romantic period. They were illustrated beautifully and included two depictions of Opportunity. Pictured below is another version of Opportunity, who wear's a voluminous dress and fruitful hat. The figure is holding a ladder which two babies are climbing and could well be an allegorical depiction of her relationship and what she was able to offer him. The main image may well have been used for her depiction of her painting ''April'' 1937- 1938.
''Opportunity'' 1933 - 1934, © Sarah Hill, Tigers Decorative
They parted ways in 1937. Evelyn was brought up as a Christian Scientist and had a deep faith and Mahoney was a left-wing atheist, so they didn’t see eye to eye.
'' August'' 1937, © Sarah Hill, Tigers Decorative
August is a rather symbolic self portrait, in a red bathing suit in the summer month of August. She is eating plums out off an Elephant Ear leaf, while wearing another of these leaves on her head as a sun hat. The figure is sitting on a two seater cast iron seat. At her feet, within the bower, is a garden hose coiled up. It has been suggested that the figure depicts Eve eating forbidden fruit and the garden hose represents the serpent. In one of Evelyn’s love letters to Charles Mahoney from Winter 1934 / 1935, she has penned a sketch of her and Mahony sitting entwined on the same bench. This was before the relationship had ended.
In April 1940 she was made an Official British War Artist, she was hired by the War Artists Advisory Committee. Her art captured life at home during the war, including land girls and the hard work they did for the war effort. Evelyn was the only female artist to receive a continuous salary for her work at this time. Many of the paintings are in the Imperial War Museum to this day and offer a valid insight, as to what life was like.
''A Land Girl and The Bail Bull'' 1945, Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1946, © Tate Gallery
''Milking Practice with Artificial Udders'' 1940, © Imperial War Museum
''The Queue at the Fish-Shop'' (Strood) 1944, © Imperial War Museum
Evelyn married Roger Folley in August 1942. He was an agricultural economist and he was called up to serve in the RAF, receiving his flying officer commission in 1941. He is seen in the painting above cycling by. In 1946 Evelyn took up a part time teaching post at the Oxford School of Art and also became a visiting teacher at The Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art.
After the war she painted Portraits and allegorical pictures, 1954 and 1960, they played a small but important role in her output. She often painted her family and especially older sister Jessie. Dunbar always painted Jessie side on, due to a slight facial disfigurement, that she was self conscious of. In the painting above ''The Queue at the Fish-Shop'' Jessie is seen crossing the road with a basket.
Jessie On The Bench, 1930 - 1940, © Sarah Hill, Tigers Decorative
Dunbar had a deep devotion to nature and this was expressed in her work. She had a particular affection for the landscape of Kent.
''Strawberry Cottage Vegetable Garden'' 1938 - 1939 © Sarah Hill, Tigers Decorative
On the evening of 12 May 1960, in the woods near Staple Farm, the Kent farmhouse in which she and Folley were then living, Dunbar suddenly collapsed and died. A post-mortem showed coronary atheroma to have been the cause of death.
Evelyn Dunbar - 1906–1960
Evelyn left a legacy full of rich visual evidence of life in Britain during World War II. Land girls, nurses, factory girls, sewing circles, agriculture and gardening. All reflecting the vital contribution of this countries women. Which has never been depicted so well before and with such detail and passion.
By Sarah Hill,
Great Niece Of Evelyn Dunbar