Charles Tunnicliffe Society

PUBLISHED: 10:39 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013

The ladybird book 'The Farm'

The ladybird book 'The Farm'

Take a trip down memory lane with the accomplished artist who illustrated, amongst other things, the Ladybird books and Brooke bond tea cards of our childhood.....

The Charles Tunnicliffe Society was founded in May 2006 to promote greater awareness of the life and work of this fine wildlife artist, and it will have the best of opportunities to further its aim when an exhibition of 'Tunnicliffe's Nature' takes place at Nature in Art, the museum dedicated to art inspired by the natural world, at Wallsworth Hall, Twigworth, near Gloucester, this autumn.

Many people will have been familiar since childhood with the works of this accomplished artist, for two of its aspects in particular played a part in the daily lives of many households. They are the Ladybird series of books and the Brooke Bond tea picture cards for which he created the illustrations, each of which was an individual work of art.

"His style was unmistakeable," says society member Eric Hammond, who admired the Tunnicliffe illustrations in books on nature which he studied during his teenage years, and then as a young family man discovered the picture card series.

'British Birds', 'Wild Flowers', 'British Wildlife', 'African Wildlife' and 'Asian Wildlife' were among the titles of the nine series of picture cards for which Tunnicliffe provided the artwork and for some of which there were further designs for posters.

"The birds were accurate, but not photographic," says Eric Hammond. "The work had a rhythm of life, and I felt I could almost smell the flowers and feel the menace of the tiger. He was an artist who could depict almost anything in a clear and defined way."

Nature in Art already has four of Tunnicliffe's works in its collections, and for the exhibition, which will be taking place from October 2nd - 28th; many more are being contributed from other galleries and from private collections. They will include landscapes, as well as paintings of individual species, and work in watercolour, pencil and other media, together with engravings and scraper-board work.

"He is somebody whose work is instantly recognised," says Simon Trapnell, Nature in Art director. "Virtually everybody of an earlier generation would have come across his work in one way or another."

"We want to give people the opportunity to see that he did work other than that for he is widely known. About 80 per cent will be nature related; the other 20 per cent will be more general, showing farms, people, and even buses and will show his versatility."

Tunnicliffe's work was prolific. The new society already knows of more than 250 books which he illustrated, and is certain that there are more - not to mention the magazines and comics for which publishers sought his skills. Among authors whose work he illustrated and Henry Williamson, for 'Tarka the Otter', 'Salar the Salmon' and other titles, Richard Church, H.E. Bates, Alison Uttley and Enid Blyton.

While children were learning about wildlife through the pages of such series as 'Treasure Corner', their patients were seeing Tunnicliffe's work in magazines such as 'Country Life', 'Lilliput' and 'The Bystander'.

His work was shown at the Royal Academy in London, of which he became an associate and in 1934 was elected as a member.

Charles Tunnicliffe's own early life brought him into contact with wildlife at his family home on a farm in Cheshire. His first pictures were 'exhibited' there - drawn on the whitewashed walls of the farm buildings at Langley, near Macclesfield.

As well as with the animals on the farm, he became familiar with those of the surrounding countryside. At school his artistic talent was soon recognised, and he went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London.

There his work also included wood-engraving, wood-cuts and etching, and it was work in these fields by which he first earned his living in London, before deciding to return to Cheshire.

In London he has visited the zoo there and the Natural History Museum to draw specimens, and at home in Cheshire he had wildlife around him, by working not in a studio but in a garden shed.

His attention to detail, together with his understanding of the requirements of the advertising market, made him much in demand. His illustrations promoted agricultural purposes - his greeting cards and posters, and tourist guides. For the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds he provided many of his skilfully accurate drawings, as well as producing books of his own on the wildlife around both his English and Welsh homes.

His accuracy was the result both of his own observation, and the 'measured drawings' which provided the guidelines for his work. He drew from dead specimen, he would never have shot anything himself, and these were sent by people who knew of the value to him of any dead birds or animals which they found.

After his death in 1979, Anglesey Borough Council purchased, among much other of his work, the 352 of these matured drawings, and 50 field sketches. Some with a large number of his paintings from both the early and later periods of Charles Tunnicliffe's work are on display throughout the year at the museum Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni. Exhibits both from here and form the West Park Museum in Macclesfield where his work is also celebrated, are being loaned for the Gloucestershire Exhibition.

Nature in Art can be visited from Tuesdays to Sundays throughout the year, and is open from 10am to 5pm.

Anybody who would like the join the Charles Tunnicliffe Society can contact the secretary on 01691 654085.

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