Evelyn Dunbar (1906-1960):
Woman Tending Hollyhocks (Alcea Rosea)[HMO 426]
Framed (ref: 7336)
Provenance: Roger Folley; Alasdair Dunbar; Hammer Mill Oast Collection
Literature: Christopher Campbell-Howes Evelyn Dunbar: A Life in Painting October 2016 p229f.
Bocconea cordata (alternatively Macleaya cordata), perhaps better known as Plume Poppy, grew in the garden of The Cedars, the Dunbar family home in Rochester, Kent. Dunbar loved this plant for its majestic bearing, its tenacity and particularly for the colour and texture of its leaves, the emerald-turquoise of the surface and the milky, greeny-white underside. She suggested once that the pre-Pre-Raphaï¿½lite Ford Madox Brown would have loved it too, he who had such a refined sensibility as to be deeply excited by the similar emerald-turquoise tints of a field of turnips he had seen in 1854 from the top of a horse-bus going to St Albans.
The unfinished 'Woman tending Bocconea cordata' from about 1937 shows someone, possibly Dunbar herself, reaching in among the Bocconea stems to cut off a dead leaf, with the south-facing brick wall which features in so many of Dunbar's garden paintings in the background.
Bocconea cordata or Plume Poppy appears in Gardeners' Choice (Routledge, London 1937), jointly written and illustrated by Dunbar and Charles Mahoney. They wrote of it: 'This is one of our favourite plants. Of the tall plants we know none is more distinguished in form, few are easier and more kindly.'
We are grateful to Christopher Campbell Howes and Daniel A. Simon for their 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