Thursday, 15 March 2018

Flying Applepickers (1946)

Flying Applepickers 1946 Oil on paper Photograph: Petra van der Wal ©Liss Llewellyn Fine Art. Private collection.

In late 1945 Evelyn and her husband Roger Folley, now demobilised from the RAF, moved from Kent to Warwickshire, setting up their first married home, a cottage simply called No. 8, in the village of Long Compton. They'd been told about the availability of this cottage by Roger Folley's sister, Joan Duckworth, who lived next door at The Old Orchard. (This is the house in the picture with chimneys at each gable end. No.8, which Evelyn and Roger later called Vyner's after the earliest owner they could identify in the title deeds, has the lower roofline to the right.)

The 1945 apple crop was immense. Some light-hearted banter between the sisters-in-law about how it should be harvested led to this little fantasy. Roger Folley on the extreme left looks up disbelievingly, as well he might, at this flock of flying applepickers appearing out of the sky. Evelyn - or it might be Joan Duckworth - looks on from the lower right.

Evelyn's easy mastery of figures and drapes perhaps harks back to a similar, although more studied, exercise from some ten years previously. In 1935 she was finishing the ceiling roundels at Brockley County School for Boys, now Prendergast - Hilly Fields 6th Form Centre, in Lewisham, south-east London. You can find them here. Her Brockley subjects, Olympian goddesses, abstract figures like Industry or Virtue, are much grander than her homely Long Compton applepickers.

In 2016, in the course of research for the book mentioned below, my wife Josephine and I went to Long Compton to explore for ourselves the background of Flying Applepickers and other paintings of this period. We were very warmly received (it doesn't always happen) by the present owner of The Old Orchard, who showed us round inside and out. And 'Blow me down' - to use one of Evelyn's expressions - one of the apple trees in Flying Applepickers was still there, 70 years on. A very ancient and feeble specimen, it's true, but an extraordinary witness to the actuality of Evelyn's fantasy.

Text ©Christopher Campbell-Howes 2018


If you'd like to
EVELYN DUNBAR : A LIFE IN PAINTING by Christopher Campbell-Howes
is available to order online from
448 pages, 300 illustrations. £25

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