Evelyn Dunbar: War and Country Paperback – 14 Sep 2006
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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 work and 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, the publication of which is accompanied by the first retrospective exhibition of her work, celebrates for the first time the range of her achievement. Sumptuously illustrated, it is an essential and invaluable text for all those interested in twentieth-century British art and culture. Drawing extensively on interviews with family members, including Evelyn Dunbar's husband Dr. Roger Folley and other key figures not previously identified, and newly located archives and correspondence, 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. 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.Although Evelyn Dunbar was first and foremost a painter, her powers of observation and wry, gentle wit were well used in her illustrative work, where she deployed her fine draughtsmanship. She was part of a neglected generation of artists whose lives are now being recognised and reappraised. Evelyn Dunbar did much to add to the 'spirit and practice of English art' and deserves to take her place alongside her contemporaries and in particular Edward Bawden, Barnet Freedman, Charles Mahoney, John Nash, Eric Ravilious, Geoffrey Rhoades and Stanley Spencer.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is an artist for whom the term "prodigiously talented" could have been invented. Respected by her contemporaries from the start, she specialised in murals until the outbreak of the Second World War, when she became the only official (ie paid) female war artist. As well as producing distinctive, limpid paintings of life on the Home Front, especially among nurses and the Land Army, she produced illustrations for a number of official manuals and documents. The style of these is quite different from the sprightly ink and wash drawings she drew for herself and her friends; especially charming are the sketches and designs sent as letters. All of these are illustrated, giving a cross-section of her work. I felt there could have been more pictures and those reproduced could have been larger.
Dunbar, a life-long Christian Scientist, was a retiring and shy person, the antithesis of Laura Knight whose wartime work is vastly better known. In addition she lived in the country and was not caught up in political or artistic ferment. The author is not an art historian and is clearly hesitant to venture opinions on the artist’s work, preferring to quote contemporary voices. Until recently, see below, Dunbar’s works numbered some 500 and here some eighty, half in colour, including drawings, illustrated letters, book illustrations, oil paintings and murals are presented. Dunbar’s paramount skill is in creating images containing intense detail.
Unfortunately, Clarke frequently describes works that are not illustrated and, to make matters worse, those that lack information about their location or, generally, their date. One of her most complex works “A 1944 Pastoral: Land Girls Pruning at East Malling” is on permanent display at the Manchester City Galleries but the reader is not told this. Some works have disappeared, one has been stolen and the artist was a notoriously slow worker, but this is no excuse to exclude this vital information where it is known.
The reproductions are often small but there seems little reason for this since the text only takes up three-quarters of each page.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
good that an important woman artist has been given the attention she deserved. fascinating portrait of her and the times she reflected.Published on 14 Jan. 2012 by rebs