John Tunnard



John Tunnard 1900–1971
Oil paint and graphite on hardboard
Support: 445 × 813 mm
frame: 595 × 955 × 80 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1978

Display caption

An advocate of surrealism in Britain, Tunnard was interested in experimental techniques that summon an imaginative world. He developed a unique vision of quasi-mechanical structures in deep space that remain mysterious. Tunnard was taken up by the American collector Peggy Guggenheim and shown in her London gallery in 1939. The story goes that he crossed the private view to introduce himself to a prospective collector by turning three somersaults.

Gallery label, September 2016

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

T02327 FULCRUM 1939

Inscribed ‘John Tunnard 39’ b.r.
Oil and graphite pencil on hardboard, 17 1/2 × 32 (44.5 × 81.3)
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1978
Prov: Bequeathed by the artist to Peter Tunnard from whom bought by the Chantrey Trustees 1978
Exh: John Tunnard, Guggenheim Jeune, March–April 1939 (22, price 30 guineas); British Surrealist and Abstract Painting, Northampton Art Gallery, July–August 1939 (10, price 14 guineas); British Art and the Modern Movement 1930–40, Arts Council exhibition, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, October–November 1962 (57); Art in Britain 1930–40 centred around Axis, Circle and Unit One, Marlborough Fine Art, March–April 1965 (162, repr.); John Tunnard, Hartnoll and Eyre, April 1971 (7, repr.); John Tunnard 1900–1971, Arts Council exhibition, RA Diploma Gallery, March–April 1977 (18, repr.) and subsequent tour to Kettles Yard Cambridge, Kettering Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle and Newlyn Art Gallery; Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, Hayward Gallery; January–March 1978 (14.52, repr.)
Lit: Mark Glazebrook, catalogue of 1977 Arts Council Exhibition John Tunnard 1900–1971, p.25
Repr: London Bulletin, No. 18–20, June 1940, p.27

According to Mark Glazebrook (op. cit.) the first extant ‘nonrepresentational’ work by John Tunnard, a watercolour ‘Two birds, one pebble, one boulder’ suggesting abstraction from natural forms, dates from 1935. A watercolour of 1937 (Mark Glazebrook op. cit. p.24) has suggestions of natural and man-made objects joined by wires. In ‘Fulcrum’ objects appear to be man-made rather than natural and the wires are taut. Glazebrook quotes a reviewer of the exhibition at Guggenheim Jeune in 1939, where ‘Fulcrum’ was shown, as referring to Tunnard as ‘the Heath Robinson of the Constructivist movement.’

The exhibition of Tunnard's work at Hartnoll and Eyre in 1971 included the, Tate picture as well as another work entitled ‘Fulcrum’ (17 × 33 inches) dating from 1960.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1978-80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981

You might like

In the shop