Oil paintings in the James Dunn Collection: where do these fit in?
27 May 2020
By Philip Crompton
Philip Crompton is a Community History Volunteer at Blackburn with Darwen Library and Information Service. He has made many discoveries with regard to the Dunn Collection some of which are highlighted in this and following posts.
When researching James Dunn and his collection you usually finish up with more questions than answers. The most common one being, “Why did he do that?”
This applies particularly to the two framed paintings which came as an integral part of the collection. Both have no relationship with other items in the collection and sit uncomfortably amongst the mass of antiquarian books. Their subject, still life paintings of flowers in oils, looks very dated now and accepting that tastes change over time, must, I feel, have done so then.
Both paintings where were acquired by Dunn in the latter years of his life, one in 1940, Flower Decoration, and the other, Floral Symphony, in 1942. Painted by artists Lynden Dimond and Ethel Fordham, their respective works were exhibited at the Royal Academy in the year that they were acquired. This would suggest Dunn made at least one trip to London to purchase them. Neither artist made it to the “big time” in the art world.
Looking at correspondence between Dunn and the Library on the earlier picture, Flower Decoration, there appears to be some reticence about accepting the picture from certain members of the library committee. Reading between the lines it looks like it was decided to accept them rather than jeopardise losing the whole donation of his collection; a small price to pay.
In a letter to the committee in October 1940, Dunn thanks them for agreeing to take the picture commenting “the time will come when its merits will be better recognised”. Additionally, he asks that they glaze the work on his behalf to “preserve the colouring” for which he will gladly reimburse them for this work. He clearly had high future expectations for the painting.
Flower Decoration is currently in storage at the museum. The later 1942 picture, Floral Symphony, is displayed as part of the exhibition.
I am sure as you look at it in the context of the other Dunn related items on display you will say to yourself, “Why did he buy that?” Unfortunately, like many others it is a Dunn related question we would dearly like to answer but cannot.
 For image see Art Uk