Early works by Evelyn Dunbar to be offered at auction

Two lots of early works by the famous wartime artist, Evelyn Dunbar, feature in The Art and Design Sale on 25th January

Evelyn Dunbar, who lived in Rochester in Kent from 1913 until her death in 1960, shot to fame in World War II when she was the only woman artist to receive a salary for her paintings, most of which depicted civilian contributions to the war effort on the Home Front. 


Now available is an autograph book which belonged to a friend of Dunbar’s at Rochester Girls’ Grammar School which includes four watercolours by the artist. This dates back to 1924 and carries an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000. The second is a painting titled ‘Roadworks’ which has an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000 (picture). This is believed to have been painted between 1926 and 1928 at the Rochester School of Art and the scene is thought to have been in Strood, Kent, the location of the Dunbar family home. 


As an artist whose work had never sold at auction, Dunbar rocked the market last year when Cheffins sold her painting titled ‘Joseph’s Dream’ for £60,000, twenty times over its estimate of £3,000. This was on behalf of the Cambridgeshire County Council Pictures for Schools Collection. She is now widely-regarded as one of the most important 20th century woman artists in Britain.  


Somewhat forgotten since the war, Evelyn Dunbar made headlines when in 2013, her nephew’s wife, Ro Dunbar, saw a painting by her on the Antiques Roadshow. It was highly praised by paintings expert, Rupert Maas, however he struggled to find a value as at the time she was viewed as “an unknown artist.”* This prompted Ro Dunbar to consider a tightly bound collection of artworks that had been left to her on Evelyn's death, which she thought would have been by Evelyn's mother, an amateur painter. They turned out to include more than 500 paintings and drawings by Evelyn Dunbar herself. These works have been exhibited and made headlines across the UK. They have since been disseminated between institutions such as the Imperial War Museum, The Tate or kept by family members.   


Brett Tryner, Associate, Cheffins comments: “Many people hadn’t heard of Dunbar prior to the Antiques Roadshow and whilst some of her works were in institutions already, the majority had been retained by her family who associated no great value to the collection. The discovery of the majority of her archive retained by the family accumulated in the most amazing exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery, which officially established the market for her as an artist. She is now widely-regarded as one of the best 20th century artists we have seen in Britain. 


Until recent years interest in 20th century art was reserved for the revered continental artists such as Picasso and Matisse and homegrown talents were, on the whole, deemed inferior. There were the ‘greats’ such as LS Lowry, Hockney or Francis Bacon, but the wider circle of artists was overlooked and generally forgotten. Recently there has been much more academic work undertaken in this field and a few dedicated scholars have curated exhibitions and produced monographs on various artists. This has created a market for these artists which has seen their prices rise drastically in recent years. There has also been an increased interest in both women and war artists due to reinterpretation of their importance to British art and the war efforts. With this in mind, we expect these pictures to be of interest to private collectors and institutions alike.” 


Auction: Another Perspective – The Art and Design Sale, 25th January 2018, 11am onwards at Cheffins, Clifton House, 1-2 Clifton Road, Cambridge, UK, CB1 7EA


For further media information, please contact Sophie Richardson, PR Manager, Cheffins on 01223 271990.




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