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Evelyn Dunbar: War and Country

Clarke, Gill (2006) Evelyn Dunbar: War and Country, Bristol, GB, Sansom, 224pp.

Record type: Book


Evelyn Dunbar holds a unique position in twentieth-century British art. Described by William Rothenstein, when principal of the Royal College of Art, as one of the most promising of the younger painters, with ‘real genius…’, she specialised in mural painting at the RCA and carried out decorations at Brockley School, Lewisham from 1933-36 under Charles Mahoney’s direction. It was at Brockley that her work first gained public notice and wide acclaim.

Evelyn Dunbar was devoted to nature and the natural world and in particular the garden, which was rooted in her affection for the Kentish landscape. That she did not seek publicity, was modest about her achievements and did not see herself as part of a clique have all contributed to the neglect of her work.

Dunbar’s most successful and extensive body of work dates from the Second World War when she was commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, and so became the only woman, on a salaried basis, to record women’s activities on the Home Front. It was for her lyrical but unsentimental paintings of the Women’s Land Army that she is especially known. These provide an important documentary record of women’s contribution to the war effort. Like many other war artists she tended to fall out of sight of the mainstream, modernist art world following the cessation of hostilities.

Marking the centenary of Dunbar’s birth, this unique and authoritative biography, celebrates for the first time the range of her achievement. Sumptuously illustrated, it is an important text for all those interested in twentieth-century British art and culture.

Drawing extensively on interviews with family members, correspondence and newly located archives, the author focusses on Dunbar’s career from illustrator and mural painter, to war artist and teacher at The Ruskin School of Drawing and of Fine Art, Oxford. Evelyn Dunabr was a fine draughtswoman and her powers of observation and wry, gentle wit were well used in her illustrative work.

Each chapter explores a different period in her life, revealing the variety of her work and demonstrating her profound understanding and love of the countryside.

Evelyn Dunbar was part of a neglected generation of artists whose lives are now being recognised and reappraised. She did much to add to the ‘practice and spirit of English art’ and deserves to be placed alongside her contemporaries Edward Bawden, Barnet Freedman, Charles Mahoney, John Nash, Eric Ravilious and Stanley Spencer.

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More information

Published date: 2006
Additional Information: Gill Clarke is guest curator for the exhibition 'Evelyn Dunbar: war and country' which runs from September 9th to November 18th 2006 at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington


Local EPrints ID: 41483
ISBN: 1904537561
PURE UUID: 704d804a-1171-48e0-86f8-8938c5f7e8bc

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 15 Sep 2006
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:30

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Author: Gill Clarke

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