Sue Dunkley British, 1942-2022
Born to publican parents Dunkley moved around frequently when young, before studying at Bath Academy of Art (1959-61), Chelsea (1961-63) and the Slade, winning scholarships to visit Australia and Italy, and began teaching at art schools shortly after graduating in 1965.
Taking as her subject contemporary icons of celebrity at the time such as John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, the female body and the male gaze, her paintings are striking works of colour and cultural commentary. Often autobiographical, Dunkley was deeply affected by her divorce in 1974, and raising two children, she wrestled with the challenges of being a woman, an artist and a mother. Her work explores violence, sexuality, and the role of women in changing eras. A feeling of haunting tension and melancholy is juxtaposed with the playful, bright primary colours. Parallels have been drawn with the work of Alex Katz, Allen Jones and Pauline Boty in particular.
Dunkley lived and worked in a large beloved family house in Islington for over 50 years. Surrounded by artists, musicians and actors, her parties were legendary, and friends often spoke of her sense of humour with regular visitors including neighbours Rogers Waters and Howard Hodgkin. During this period, she repeatedly painted the artist duo Gilbert and George, fascinated by their ‘stone’ like appearance, masculinity and violence are presented along with the Kennedy assassinations.
Outspoken, beautiful, young, and dressed in Mary Quant, Dunkley appeared in fashionable magazines such as Nova in 1966 and was spoken about in the same breath as Twiggy as part of the new, swinging, cultural set at the time. Collectors and friends included Harold Pinter, Seamus Heaney, Salman Rushdie and Julie Christie, who she became close with after working as an advisor for her role in The Railway Station Man where she portrayed a painter.
Dunkley throughout the early 70s exhibited annually with the artists collective the London Group and had her first solo exhibition in 1973 at Bolsover Street Gallery, London. A series of well-received exhibitions at the Thumb Gallery in Soho followed in the late 70s and early 80s. Works joined public collections at Leicester Museum and elsewhere, but Dunkley was uncompromising about her art and refused to take direction. Latterly she exhibited at Connaught Brown, London in 1993, and had a solo show in 2017 with Alison Jacques Gallery, London.
Sue DunkleyUntitled (Fourplay), 1975Oil on canvas152 x 137 cm
59 7/8 x 54 inches
Sue DunkleyBath, 1974Oil on canvas152.5 x 183 cm
60 x 72 inches
Sue DunkleyBeloved, 1973Pastel on paper57 x 68 cm
22 1/2 x 26 3/4 inches
Sue DunkleyBlood Wedding, 1973Pastel on paper59 x 88.2 cm
23 1/4 x 34 3/4 inches
Sue DunkleyWedding, 1973Pastel on paper45.5 x 58.3 cm
17 7/8 x 23 inches
Sue DunkleyRunning For Cover, 1972Oil on canvas121.5 x 106 cm
47 7/8 x 41 3/4 inches
Sue DunkleyUntitled (JFK), 1970Oil on canvas137 x 137 cm
54 x 54 inches
Sue DunkleyThe Kiss, 1969c.Pastel on paper50.5 x 75.2 cm
19 7/8 x 29 5/8 inches
Sue DunkleyThe Shadows, 1969Pastel on paper76 x 56 cm
29 7/8 x 22 inches
Sue DunkleyUntitled (Gilbert & George, Yellow), 1969Oil on canvas107 x 127 cm
42 1/8 x 50 inches
Sue DunkleyMelancholy, 1968Oil on canvas122.5 x 107.5 cm
48 1/4 x 42 3/8 inches