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Study of rediscovered masterpiece offered at Art & Design Sale
Autumn and the Poet (study) chalk pastel on board, dimensions: 54 x 75 cm. Estimate of £10,000-15,000.

CAMBRIDGE.- A preparatory work of a painting that was famously rediscovered on the Antiques Roadshow in 2013 is being offered at Cheffins’ Art & Design Sale on Thursday 13th February.

The rediscovery of Evelyn Dunbar’s Autumn and the Poet on the BBC show in September 2013 has done much to raise the profile of the artist who died in 1960.

Antiques Roadshow expert Rupert Maas described the finished work on the show as a “masterpiece” and soon after it was purchased to be displayed at Maidstone Museum.

Another result of the TV appearance was the emergence of 500 of Dunbar’s paintings and drawings after Ro Dunbar – who is married to Evelyn’s nephew – watched the show and remembered there was that a tightly bound collection of artworks in the attic of her farmhouse, near Biddenden in Kent.

The collection turned out to be by Evelyn and had been left by her husband Roger Folley, an agricultural economist who had been her model for the poet in the painting. The discovery doubled the number of Dunbar’s known works. Much of her work had been given to family and friends after her death at the age of 54.

The chalk pastel on board of a study of Autumn and the Poet that is being offered by Cheffins was gifted to Margaret Lliffe, née Goodwin. It stayed within her family until being sold at auction by TW Gaze in Diss, Suffolk in 2011 – two years before Autumn and the Poet was rediscovered.

These discoveries have raised the profile of Dunbar’s later work, but she was already well known as the only woman commissioned, on a salaried basis, to record women’s activities on the Home Front during the Second World War. Her war paintings hang in Tate Britain and the Imperial War Museum.

Post war, her work gave more reign to her imagination and allegorical work and Autumn and the Poet is perhaps her most significant painting of that genre. It was finally finished in her studio at Staple Farm, near Wye, Kent, during 1958-59, having absorbed her intermittently for the previous ten years or so.

Dunbar, a Christian scientist, died suddenly within a year of finishing the painting and may have had a sense of her own life coming to an end when finishing the painting.

Brett Tryner, director at Cheffins Fine Art, said: “In recent years Dunbar’s work is getting the recognition it deserves and this is evident in the high prices achieved by her works at auction. In 2017, we sold a significant painting by her, Joseph’s Dream, for £60,000 on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council.

“She had a profound understanding and love of the countryside which is reflected in Autumn of the Poet and in this study. Interestingly, in this study, the poet is seated rather than reclining as he is in the finished painting which I feel shows how much work she put into the final version.”

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