Evelyn Dunbar wrote to the WAAC in December 1939 offering her services. At the time she was working in her sister's haberdashery shop, having abandoned a plan to open an art gallery due to the war. She expressed particular interest in women's agricultural and horticultural subjects. There is no record of a response to this initial letter, but in March 1940 the Committee offered her a commission of 50 guineas for six Women's Voluntary Services subjects. Ethel Gabain and Dorothy Coke were also working on similar subjects. Dunbar was particularly allocated to make pictures of the land army. Among her research Dunbar reported having seen a film about the work of the WVS (13).
By June 1940, Dunbar was at Sparsholt Farm Institute, near Winchester (18). In this letter, she refers to her picture of women ambulance drivers dressing in anti-gas clothing (IWM:ART LD 247). Whilst at Sparsholt, Dunbar and one of the instructors, Michael Greenhill, developed an idea for an illustrated book, to instruct beginners in basic farming practices (20). Although the Committee were unable to help, the book was published in 1941 by Longman, Green and Co, entitled A Book of Farmcraft.
In September 1940, Dunbar submitted three pictures, one of them IWM:ART LD 766, the others entitled Women Drivers Cleaning Party Cars' and Introduction to the Tractor'. She also mentioned (22) that she had been working with a women's group which helps air raid victims, and would submit some drawings from her experiences. Further works were submitted over the next few months, including Land Girls in full Dress' and two pictures on the subject of stooking. A full list is at (29). Of these, the Committee decided that four were enough for the value of the commission (IWM:ART LD 765-768) (23, 28). Characteristically, Dunbar stated that she had expected to present eight instead of six. Throughout her dealings with the committee, she expressed concern about whether she was producing enough, or working quickly enough.
Dunbar often expressed her pleasure in the work and her enthusiasm for further commissions. In June 1941, she asked to work on minesweepers at Sheerness, where her brother was in command. However, before this could be managed, her brother was transferred.
In August that year, she was given a further commission, to paint nursing subjects, for 35 guineas. (The resulting works were IWM:ART LD 1664, 1858, 2477 and 2478.) She started work in September 1941 (39). By December, she had submitted IWM:ART LD 1664 to the Committee, who praised it warmly, and expressed a wish to keep Dunbar from being called up. While working on the hospital and nursing subjects, Dunbar spent time at St Nicholas's hospital in Pyrford, to which St Thomas's hospital (London) had been evacuated.
Other papers at this time refer to problems obtaining canvas, and her marriage, to Roger Folley, whom she had met at Sparsholt, in the summer of 1942. There is also correspondence with T E Fennemore (of the Central Institute of Art and Design) who recommended Dunbar to Embleton, the Studio Manager at the Ministry of Information, for graphic or propaganda work.
The Committee received LD 2477-2478 in October 1942, and voted Dunbar an extra 35 guineas on this commission. (Dunbar gives a good, detailed description of IWM:ART LD 2478 at (123)). In addition, she was offered a six-month salaried commission at £325. Arrangements were discussed for new subjects, among them fruit spraying, land drainage and reclamation, including the Sugar Loaf' scheme. Dunbar travelled to the Institute of Agriculture at Usk, Monmouthshire, arriving on 2 January 1943 (cf LD 2969-2970). There she stayed in a Women's Land Army caravan "good fun and experience, and makes me tough". She later travelled to Gloucestershire (98) and expressed interest in ATS subjects and in the idea of an aerodrome at night. By April, she had 9 pictures ready or nearly ready (102).
In May she visited the Scottish Borders for agricultural pictures (cf LD 2972), a region where the Land Army felt somewhat forgotten (102). At Coldstream she found inspiration in the hostels where gangs of land army girls stayed (IWM:ART LD 3351, LD 3348). She also found ATS subjects in the area (cf IWM:ART LD 3349)
At (111) there is a presscutting about Dunbar.
A further six-month commission was offered in September 1943, to do WAAF subjects (Dunbar had also suggested the BBC as a subject, but the Committee felt this was inappropriate).
In October 1943, she wrote once again expressing concern about her ability to deliver sufficient work in the period of six months, to the value of the salary of £325 (117-118).
In January 1944, an additional commission was proposed, to paint dummy guns and figures in connection with camouflage (128-131) but there is no evidence that this commission was ever formalised. Dunbar was given a new six month contract, in March 1944, again to paint women's subjects (136). In July, she was at the RAF station at South Cerney in Gloucestershire, and then back in Kent, from where she asked for special rations of petrol to allow her to travel to subjects in the local area, the RAF station at Cobham, to complete the work started at South Cerney, and the East Malling Fruit Research Station for a pruning picture (LD 5016).
Four WAAF/land Army pictures were warmly received by the Committee in March 1945 (LD 5013-5016), with the exception of the "little Airwoman" (5015) which was not liked (165). Then, in September 1945, Dunbar submitted Land Girl and Bail Bull' (LD 5460) which she felt was "rather old-fashioned" (173), but the Committee were delighted. (174). Her final picture, LD 5683, was submitted in January 1946.
The remainder of the file concerns post-war loans, and includes a catalogue for the IWM's exhibition Some Women Artists', 11 October 1958 to 2 February 1959.