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John Dunkley

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1977
Published by: National Gallery of Jamaica
Year published: 1977
Number of pages: 21

image of John Dunkley

Important catalogue of exhibition of paintings and sculptures by self-taught artist John Dunkley (b. Jamaica, 1891-1947) held at National Gallery of Jamaica, December 9 1976 - February 19 1977. Extensively illustrated with plates of the artist’s work, and photographs of his sculpture. Catalogue dimensions are 255mm x 215mm. Dunkley left a relatively small number of paintings (apparently fewer than 50) spanning little more than a decade, mostly imagined landscapes full of hidden symbolism, others depictions of street scenes or activities he observed or copied in his paintings, all resonating with Dunkley’s trademark surrealist renderings of vegetation and humanity. After a memorial exhibition in 1947 and a joint Dunkley/ (Henry) Daley exhibition in 1960 - both at the Institute of Jamaica - Dunkley was virtually a forgotten artist, but is now a well-regarded figure in the history of Jamaican art. This exhibition was an important part of Dunkley’s posthumous embrace as an important figure. The catalogue’s preface was written by the Gallery’s Director David Boxer, embellished by a variety of texts by individuals such as Sir Philip Sherlock, Cassie Fraser Dunkley, Edna and Norman Manley.

From David Boxer’s Preface: “I could say that these are paintings which would have been a special delight to the Surrealists had they known of them, but we are not all amateur freudians searching for the dark secrets that spawn the unique creativity of an artist like Dunkley. And to speak at length of his obvious phallic consciousness and his obvious preoccupation with that linkage of eroticism and death, that basic instinctual dualism, the Eros/Thantos conflict which Freud defined (“the ultimate explanation of the human neurosis”) may perhaps be a barrier to those who would delight instead in the delicacy of the paintings’ tapestry-like surfaces and in the highly sophisticated spatial organization of the works.”

In the main, the catalogue text consisted of extracts of appreciations of Dunkley and his work, written at various times in history, from 1948 onwards.

Contents as follows:

Preface, David Boxer

Appreciation, 1976, Sir Philip Sherlock (former Secretary of the Institute of Jamaica)

Life of John Dunkley, by Cassie Dunkley (Reprinted from the catalogue of the “Memorial Anniversary Exhibition of the late John Dunkley, Artist and Sculptor”, 1948

Appreciation, Edna Manley

Appreciation, Norman Manley (excerpt from a Speech to Parliament, 1962)

Catalogue - paintings, with a note. “The dates of most of Dunkley’s works are unknown.”

Catalogue - sculpture

Appreciation - Sunday Gleaner, February 15th, 1948

Appreciation - Vic Reid, From a review of the Dunkley Memorial Exhibition, 1948, the Daily Gleaner, 19th Feb. 1948

Appreciation, Norman Rae, from “A Legacy”, the Daily Gleaner, April 30, 1960

Appreciation, Ignacy Eker, from “Inner Vision”, the Sunday Gleaner, May 29, 1960

Appreciation, Edwin Tood, from “Dunkley”, Jamaica Journal Vol. 2 No. 3, Sept. 1968

Appreciation, John Wood, Jamaica Palette, 1955

Appreciation, Basil McFarlane, from “An Introduction to Jamaican Art”

Appreciation, Hugh Dunphy, 1976

Appreciation, Carl Abrahams, December, 1974

Appreciation, David Boxer, in an address at the opening of the exhibition “Eight Jamaican Primitives”, Havana, 1976

Appreciation, Edmund B. Gaither, from Jamaican Art Since the Thirties, Atlanta, 1969


Supporting Members, Sustaining Members, other exhibition details

Catalogue extensively illustrated throughout, with plates of paintings, and photographs of sculpture.

Related people

»  John Dunkley

Born, 1886 - 1896 (probably 1891) in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, Jamaica. Died, 1947

Related exhibitions

»  John Dunkley

Solo show at National Gallery of Jamaica. 1976 - 1977

Related venues

»  National Gallery of Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica