Dunbar, Evelyn

(1906 – 1960)

Felbridge, circa 1926

Oil on canvas


The Artist’s Studio; thence by descent

There were always dogs present in the Dunbar household, and occasionally they find their way into Dunbar’s work. Felbridge is a sympathetic solo study of the Welsh terrier-cum-lurcher the Dunbars had from about 1918 until 1928, when he was replaced by an Aberdeen terrier called Paul.

Felbridge is seen asleep on the kitchen floor at 224, High Street, Rochester, Kent, the house the Dunbars occupied from 1913-24, when they moved to a larger and more opulent house called The Cedars. A shaft of low sunlight has illuminated the sleeping dog, bringing out the full colours and texture of his head, muzzle and hind leg. Acutely sensitive to colour, Dunbar (who was in her
mid-teens at the time of painting) would have sketched the dog hurriedly, making notes of the shades and subtleties of colouring in situ before working her sketch up in oils in her studio. The better to emphasise the effect of sunlight on the dog’s coat, Dunbar has painted the kitchen chair and the dog’s blanket in muted colours, while the blue wall behind, whether in fact it was blue or not,
presents a contrasting foil to the bright orangey-browns and flames of Felbridge’s fur. When he has woken up he will show himself in a different character, alert and expectant, as in Dunbar’s accompanying pencil sketch of about 1922. Or maybe feeling woebegone and hard done by, as in her pen and wash sketch from the same period.

We are grateful to Christopher-Campbell Howes, author of  Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, for the above text.

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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. 


Evelyn Dunbar
Study for July, Gardeners Diary 1938, 1937
Evelyn Dunbar
Studies for Mercatora, an allegorical painting (whereabouts unknown) [HMO 173]
Evelyn Dunbar
Colour study for sub-gallery spandrels at Brockley County School for Boys [HMO 551]
Evelyn Dunbar
Portrait of the artist Margaret Goodwin