Natural Histories: Some Thoughts on John Dunkley

National Gallery of Jamaica Blog

Our current Natural Histories exhibition includes John Dunkley’s “Back to Nature” (c1939) and this prompted the following reflection on Dunkley and his work.

John Dunkley’s life was typical of that of many Jamaicans of his generation. He was born in Savanna-la-Mar on December 10, 1891 and died in Kingston on February 17, 1947. As a young man, Dunkley travelled to Panama, Costa Rica and Cuba and also worked as a sailor, before returning to Jamaica in 1926 where he settled in Kingston and established a barber shop. His early biography is sketchy but it is well possible that Dunkley worked on the Panama Canal or with the United Fruit Company – a personal connection to the banana industry is suggested by his best known painting, Banana Plantation (c1945). According to his widow Cassie, Dunkley started painting while he was outside of Jamaica and was introduced to art by a…

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