Alphabe Thursday … T is for Tunnicliffe and Tarka
I don’t know why I haven’t written about Charles Tunnicliffe before; he is celebrated as the greatest wildlife artist of all time. He was a hardworking, modest countryman who inspired countless naturalists of all ages; if only from his illustrations in Ladybird and Puffin Books alone.
Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe (1901-1979) grew up on a small farm in Cheshire, where he helped out with day-to-day tasks enabling him to observe animals and birds closely and at the local village school he learned to draw and become interested in art. When he was 14 he enrolled at Macclesfield School of Art and was awarded a scholarship at the Royal College of Art in London. Where he met the likes of William Rothenstein, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Edward Burra. Tunnicliffe studied engraving and went on to teach illustration and graphic design.
After graduating Tunnicliffe continued to live in London making a living from selling etchings and engravings of rural scenes. Meanwhile, he married a fellow student Winifred Wonnacott who it is said was the mainstay of Charles’s life and an essential contributor to his remarkable success. He then moved back to Macclesfield. With the onset of the economic depression in 1930s the market in prints declined. So Tunnicliffe had to find other sources of income.
Winifred encouraged her husband to submit illustrations for the new edition of Henry Williamson’s best-selling novel Tarka the Otter.
It was this series of wood engravings that bought the artist widespread recognition when the book was published in 1932.
‘Tarka … threw me into closer and closer contact with animals and birds’
Images from Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson ; illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe 1932
What to look for in Autumn ; a ladybird nature book by E.L. Grant Watson with illustrations by C.F. Tunnicliffe
Birds of the estuary by C.F. Tunnicliffe