Five previously publicly unseen works by Jamaica’s first and finest intuitive artist, John Dunkley (1891-1947), were revealed at the opening of John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night at the National Gallery of Jamaica.
“It is quite a coup for the National Gallery to have secured these Dunkley works for the exhibition and we’re very grateful to the collectors for sharing them,” says Dr Jonathan Greenland, acting executive director of the National Gallery. One work, Deliverance, was believed to be lost. Created by Dunkley in response to the announcement of World War II, it “channels serenity (and a) seeming connection to a higher power, perhaps a plea for peace, or deliverance, in the face of the onslaught of war.” Its owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Gallery after seeing the show in Miami and generously offered it to our local exhibition. Two other small sculptures Wooden Shoe and Woman Sitting which form part of the Ameen Canaan Collection adds two other rarely seen sculptural works to the show.
Though a selection of Dunkley’s work is on permanent display at the NGJ, his oeuvre spans little more than a decade and only 50 paintings and a small number of sculptures by Dunkley exist in the world. John Dunkley: Neither Day nor Night, organised by Perez Art Museum (PAMM), debuted in Miami in May 2017 before coming to Jamaica for its current three-month run. Aside from his inclusion in the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco and the NGJ/Smithsonian travelling exhibition of 1983 Dunkley’s work was relatively unknown in the United States until PAMM’s light shone on Dunkley as a beacon of modern and contemporary art from the Caribbean. The exhibition gives local audiences the rare opportunity to see this collection of forty-seven (47) works together for the first time since the NGJ Retrospective of his work in 1976.
The show ends in Kingston on July 29th and will tour to American Folk Art Museum in New York City.