“To hell with nature!”: Acclaim—Tunnicliffe’s ‘Fine Prints’
These etchings were produced after Tunnicliffe had left rural Cheshire to study art in London. Tunnicliffe returned to the family farm during college vacations. London never served as an inspiration for his prints.
At the Royal College of Art, Tunnicliffe was encouraged to learn from old master prints in museum collections. Rembrandt, Dürer, Millet and Paulus Potter were his masters. Potter’s influence, in particular, is noticeable in scenes of horses and cattle standing tall above a low horizon.
Tunnicliffe had spent much of his boyhood working with cattle. They were one of his favourite subjects. He wrote more about the bull – its character and unpredictability – than about any other farm animal. ‘If you must draw him,’ he cautioned readers of his book How to Draw Farm Animals, ‘see that he is chained up, or that there is a good strong fence between you and him.’
In 1929, critic and print connoisseur Malcolm Salaman declared The Thief to be one of the ‘outstanding prints of the year.’ Salaman did much to promote Tunnicliffe’s career in Britain and the United States. The seventy-five impressions of The Thief sold quickly. In turn, Tunnicliffe paid tribute to Salaman in one of his few etched portraits (shown below).
A fully illustrated print catalogue raisonné by Robert Meyrick and Harry Heuser, with an essay on Tunnicliffe’s career by Heuser, was published by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 2017.