Dunbar, Evelyn

(1906 – 1960)

Nude self-portrait, 1928


Pencil and watercolour on paper

1 in stock


The Artist’s Estate

Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.299.

‘Female nude self-portraits of the period are not common. We assume that this delicate water-colour is indeed a mirror-image self-portrait because the inscription is in Evelyn’s handwriting at that period, because she kept it all her life and because the provenance is impeccable. (The modest rondeurs and texture of the buttocks are echoed in several mid-1930s letters to Charles Mahoney, who compared this feature to a peach, and vice versa.) [‚Ķ] Why did she paint it? In the summer of 1928 she was living at home, writing and illustrating children’s books, not having found much satisfaction in the art college courses she had abandoned. In the absence of life classes, and no doubt conscious of the sometimes louche reputation attaching itself to models, did Evelyn try to explore one of the great imperatives of figure drawing unofficially, in the comfort of her own bedroom? Perhaps we should ask no further questions, but simply enjoy this delicate water-colour essay into the nude with the subtly tinted flesh of an attractive 21-year-old woman.’

Christopher Campbell-Howes: Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting p73

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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