C.F. Tunnicliffe

Charles Tunnicliffe (1901-1979) was a wildlife artist, book and magazine illustrator and writer, noted for his depiction of the English countryside and its wildlife. This exhibition, which was on display at the University Library, showcased a number of books and other items illustrated by Tunnicliffe, including original artwork for a series of Ladybird books which he illustrated.

Tunnicliffe was born and brought up on a farm in Cheshire. He attended the Macclesfield School of Art before gaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London in 1920. After his initial studies he specialised in etching and engraving and began work as a freelance commercial artist, producing advertising images for farming supplies such as cattle food and fertilizers.

His first book illustrations were produced for the illustrated edition of Henry Williamson’s Tarka the otter which began a long association with Williamson. He went on to work with many other writers including Alison Uttley and Richard Church. Tunnicliffe settled in Anglesey in 1947, his home on the coast providing wonderful opportunities for drawing and painting birds in their natural setting. Tunnicliffe continued to supply commercial artwork for magazines including Country life, the Radio times and the RSPB Birds magazine as well as cover art for books such as the Forestry Commission guides. He was even commissioned to create picture cards on various categories of wildlife for Brooke Bond to give away in packets of tea.

C.F. Tunnicliffe and Ladybird books

Ladybird books were first produced during the First World War by Wills & Hepworth, a jobbing printer. Initially they were simply children's story books but after the Second World War the firm started to produce educational books which increased sales enormously.

Remarkably, the price stayed the same at 2s 6d (12½p) from 1945 to 1971, a feat achieved by strict production rules – every book has 56 pages, printed on a single sheet of paper - and increasingly large print runs. The classic Ladybird book is a pocket-sized hardback with a full colour illustration facing each page of text. Between 1940 and 1980 Ladybird published over 650 different titles in over 50 series, from ‘Learning to read’ books such as The party to ‘How it works’ books such as The motor car and The computer. The latter was bought in numbers by the Ministry of Defence to help senior civil servants understand new technology.

C.F. Tunnicliffe was commissioned to illustrate five books for Ladybird: What to look for in spring, What to look for in summer, What to look for in autumn, What to look for in winter (first published 1959-1961) and a ‘Learning to read’ book The farm (1958).

The Ladybird collection is held at the University’s Special Collections Services. It comprises 700 boxes of original artwork, proofs and some documentation from the 1940s to the 1990s, including examples of the work of other notable artists such as Rowland Hilder and Allen Seaby.

The exhibits on display included items from the Children's Collection, the Ladybird collection, the library of the Museum of English Rural Life, and items on loan from a private collection.

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