Dunbar, Evelyn

(1906 – 1960)

Study for an unidentified WAAF (Womens Auxiliary Air Force) member

Oil on canvas, 18 x 14 in (45.7 x 35.6 cm)


Roger Folley; Alasdair Dunbar; Hammer Mill Oast Collection

Exhibited: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, Pallant House Gallery, October 2015 – February 2016, cat 86. WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October-23 November 2016, cat 43. Literature: Evelyn Dunbar – The Lost Works, eds Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2015, cat. 86, page 132-133; WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, eds Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 43, pages 82-83; Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting, Christopher Campbell-Howes, October 2016, page 327. In July 1944 Dunbar was sent to the RAF station at South Cerney, Gloucestershire, to record the activities of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. It was not a notably happy or productive time. She was not given security clearance for the more sensitive – and interesting – areas of WAAF operations, so she was obliged to fall back on uncontentious areas like the canteen, the clothing store and – as in this case – individual portraiture. She was directed not to disclose the names of her subjects, so the identity of this WAAF wearing her service overall is unknown. Her portrait was left unfinished and was not submitted to the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.

We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for assistance.

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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