John Dunkley is considered one of modern Jamaica’s first and finest intuitive artists painters. Like so many self-taught painters that would follow in his wake, Dunkley emerged from that class of self-employed, skilled artisans who lived by their hands. John Dunkley was a barber,
Dunkley’s early life appears to have been filled with misfortune and adventure that may account for his unique vision. Born in Savannah-la-Mar, at the age of seven he suffered an accident that damaged one of his eyes and affected his schooling, as a result, as a teenager he was sent to his father living in Panama. There again, tragedy struck, he arrived to find that his father had recently died, dashing his hopes for the future. Alone, and at the outbreak of the Great War, he became a sailor and is reported to have travelled through South and Central America, North America finally returning to Cheriqui, Panama where he took up painting and came under the influence of the painter Clarence Rock.