Tunnard was born at Sandyford, Bedfordshire 17th May 1900, and was schooled at Horton School and Charterhouse where he won the Struan Robertson prize for drawing 2 years running.. Between 1919-1923 he studied at the Royal College of Arts, then worked as textile designer from 1923-c1927. He spent time as a part-time teacher at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, before launching into the remaining part of his life which increasingly involved painting in Cornwall.

A full chronology of his life is contained in the 1977 catalogue of the Arts Council exhibition, John Tunnard 1900-1971, a major retrospective touring show which began at the RA, and progressed to Kettle's Yard, Kettering Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle and finished at the Newlyn Art Gallery in Penzance. The biography by Alan Peat and Brian Whitton (1997) is an elegant and thorough tribute to this important artist, including a catalogue raisonne and exhibition list.

The artist married a fellow student at the RCA in 1926, Mary ROBERTSON ARCA, and painted landscapes and coastal scenes during the 1930s, coming to Cornwall on a 5-month camping expedition to paint on the Lizard, and continuing thereafter to paint in Cornwall whenever he could. After his first solo show at the Redfern Gallery in 1933, his sub-title being 'Paintings from Cornwall', he purchased a caravan and moved to Cadgwith on the Lizard, where he rented part of a fisherman's loft and began a hand-blocked silk industry with his wife.

He was influenced greatly by Klee, Miro and the surrealist movement and his  later paintings took ever a more abstract form. After the Second World War he taught briefly at the Wellington School for a year before selling his cottage at Cadgwith and moving to Zennor in 1947. The following year he taught design at the Penzance School of Art. In 1953 he moved to Lamorna, making a home in the house at the head of the Valley, where Laura KNIGHT and her husband Harold KNIGHT once lived.

At the death of his wife Mary (known as 'Bob') in 1970, he moved into a flat in Penzance, where he died the following year. The two artists are buried in Zennor churchyard.


Painter of landscapes and coastal scenes, teacher

works and access



Rome; New York; London; elsewhere.


1992: RWE exhibition, Bristol: Artists from Cornwall (selected)


ARA 1967


misc further info



Catalogue, John Tunnard 1900-1971, Arts Council

Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn/Diary

A Peat & B A Whitton (1997) John Tunnard, His Life and Work Scolar Press

RA (1977) British Painting 1952-1977

RWE (1992) Artists from Cornwall, Bristol

Tate (1985) St Ives 1939-64: 25 Years of Painting, Sculpture & Pottery (biog notes p143 with photo)