(Enlarged Photo)

EVELYN DUNBAR N.E.A.C., R.W.S., A.R.C.A (1906-60)

Girls Learning to Stook and Men Stooking

Oil on canvas, signed&  inscribed verso

Commissioned: War Artists Advisory Committee
Provenance: Roger Folley
Private collection

Dunbar's most extensive body of work was produced during the Second World War, when she was commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee (W.A.A.C) to record women's activities on the Home Front, thus becoming the only salaried female war artist of WWII. The best known of the paintings she produced during this period were those recording the activities of the Women's Land Army, which have become synonymous with our collective memory of that time. Dunbar's initial contract, in 1940, was to produce six pictures of Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) activities for the sum of £50. Five of these six pictures were completed by November 1940, a batch that included 'Girls Learning to Stook', as well as 'Canning Demonstration'; 'Land Girl in Full Dress'; 'Instruction in Milking' and 'A Knitting Party'. As well as being a wonderfully evocative and powerful image – surely as good as anything produced by her male colleagues - 'Girls Stooking' is a great rarity, as it is one of the very few major examples of Dunbar's war work still in private hands - and had not been seen since the War, until its recent, thrilling, rediscovery. The picture shows Dunbar at the height of her powers, showing her ability to distil the essence of an activity, investing it with her characteristic humour, charm and symbolic power.
Amid the heightened colour and sculpted contours of the arable landscape, the stooks of wheat are arranged in serried ranks by girls studiously apeing the practices of male agricultural labourers. Stooks of wheat – like the sloped arms of a soldier on parade - are held dutifully and slightly awkwardly under their arms – a wry reference, perhaps, to their status as 'soldiers' in the Land Army.


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