In 1937 Country Life Ltd. – a satellite publishing entity of the eponymous magazine – commissioned Dunbar to create the 1938 Gardener’s Diary.
Rich in vignettes and horticultural quotations ranging from the Book of Job to Thomas Hardy, the core artwork in Dunbar’s images of the months, each of which takes human form: female in the gentler months – February (idem CAT 65; Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting pages 224/5) with crocus flowers and daffodil shoots in her hat, and April (Lost Works CAT 69; A Life in Painting pages 226/7) jauntily wearing a bird’s-nest hat and carrying attributes of topiary and a garden frame.
Occasionally these months are autobiographical: April is the month in which Evelyn’s baby by Mahoney would have been born had she not miscarried. July is definitely a male month with its abundance of cabbages and onions, as is November, the season for bonfires and general clearance. Dunbar was not one to waste a good idea or design, and some of these personifications recur as the principal motifs in An English Calendar (Lost Works CAT 71; A Life in Painting pages 229-231), the 6 foot square decoration she painted in 1938.
Dunbar delighted in personifying abstract conceptions, returning to this device in Seven Days (Lost Works CAT 72; A Life in Painting page 239) and in her projected Faith, Hope and Charity (Lost Works CAT 109).
We are grateful to Christopher Campbell-Howes for assistance.
Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February – 5 April, 2020
Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919–1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020