John Tunnard 1900-1971


John Tunnard was born in Bedfordshire and was initially trained in design at the Royal College of Art. However, after working for 4 years as a textile designer, he left the industry to concentrate on painting. Tunnard supported his art by teaching part-time at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London.


His first participation in an exhibition was in 1931, at the Royal Academy of Arts. He continued to exhibit annually with the London Group until 1950, becoming a member in 1934. His first one-man show was held at the Redfern Gallery, London, 1933. Most of these identity-finding-works depicted the landscape of Cornwall, where the artist and his wife had settled. Tunnard revived an early interest in natural science, collecting entomological specimens on the moors for the British Museum of Natural History which provided a source of imagery for his art.


Herbert Read determined Tunnard to be a, ‘dream-landscape’ painter. He was an artist experimenting in both Surrealist and Abstract modes of painting. Though he never formally joined the Surrealist Movement, he participated in several of their exhibitions in the 1930s, including Surrealism, 1939, at the Gordon Fraser Gallery, Cambridge. This exhibition featured Max Ernst, Klee, Magritte and Miró, among notable others. In March 1939 Peggy Guggenheim gave Tunnard a show at her gallery Guggenheim Jeune, London.


During the War Tunnard was posted as an auxiliary coast guard. Owing to the time he had to pursue his painting he made works for shows at Redfern gallery, Zwemmer Gallery, Alex Reid and Le Fevre, London. In 1944 he had a one-man exhibition at the Nierendorf Gallery, New York. He resumed teaching design at Wellington College, Berkshire, in 1946, and two years later took up a teaching post at Penzance School of Art, Cornwall.


Also in 1946 he was featured in, Contemporary British Art, a travelling exhibition to Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, and the City Art Museum in St Louis. The British Council included his work in three survey exhibitions in Australia and South America between 1940 -1949. In 1949 his paintings were also shown at the Salon des Réalitiés Nouvelles, Paris.


Tunnard designed a mural for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and the following year he showed with Durlacher Brothers, New York, where in 1960 he had a solo exhibition. He was elected an associate of the RoyalAcademy in 1967. In 1971 he was represented in The British Contribution to Surrealism, Hamet Gallery in London