Evelyn Dunbar: February

February, 1937/38, signed ‘ED’

Evelyn Dunbar

Belatedly recognised, Dunbar’s importance in British 20th century art is continually being reassessed. Gifted draughtswoman: brilliant RCA student under Sir William Rothenstein; principal muralist at Brockley School, Lewisham; book illustrator; devout Christian Scientist; official World War 2 artist, sole woman artist to be salaried throughout the war; subtly insistent feminist; devoted gardener; an individual artist of lively imagination and consummate technique, whose work defies easy classification, although a Pre-Raphaëlite influence is often evident.

Of Scottish and Yorkshire descent, Dunbar lived mainly in Kent. A close but uneven relationship with her former tutor Charles Mahoney led to Gardeners’ Choice (1937), written and illustrated jointly. Her convictions about the synergy of mankind and nature, first expressed through images based on the family garden, later found wider scope in her war paintings, particularly those of the Women’s Land Army.

Having separated from Mahoney, in 1942 Dunbar married horticultural economist Roger Folley, then an RAF officer. Their shared ecological convictions further encouraged her to present her ideas through allegory. Dunbar divided her later postwar years between her visions, teaching and recording her beloved Kent in landscape. She died aged 53, leaving an œuvre bespeaking a warm, positive personality working in the best humanist tradition of English art.

We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for his assistance.

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