This is a rather symbolic self portrait of the artist 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.
This painting was published in Evelyn Dunbar, A Life In Painting, By Christopher Campbell-Howes, it has never been exhibited.
We are thankful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for his in depth research in to the works of Evelyn Dunbar and the wonderful book Evelyn Dunbar – A Life In Painting.
Provenance: Evelyn Dunbar – Alec Dunbar (Evelyn’s Brother) – Florence St Clair (Sister in Law) Dudley (Son) & Ena St Clair – Sarah Hill, nee St Clair.
Medium: Oil On Canvas
Canvas Size: Height: 30 cm | Width: 20 cm
Frame Size: Height: 40 cm | Width: 27.5 cm
Condition:Worn paint in the right hand corner, light crazing in the right and left corners.
Item Number: TD1001
- Evelyn Dunbar -
Evelyn was born in Reading on the 18thDecember 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. In 1913 the family moved to Rochester and Evelyn studied at Rochester school of Art, 1925-1927, she then went on to study at 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.
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. 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, until 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.
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.
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. 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 they played a small but important role in her output. She often painted her older sister Jessie. Dunbar also painted allegorical pictures and especially landscapes. Dunbar made something of a specialty of children’s portraits in the years between 1954 and 1960.
Dunbar had a deep devotion to nature and this was expressed in her work. She had a particular affection for the landscape of Kent. 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.