HENRY TONKS

September 20, 2019 9:08 am Published by

Artist and portraitist of considerable talent, Tonks is better known today as a teacher at the Slade School in its heyday. During his tenure at the Slade from 1893-1930 a generation of artists passed through his almost legendary classes, where he rigorously preached studying from the figure. He was famously anti-modernist, and tried to ban his students from visiting exhibitions of the new movements in art:
I shall resign if this talk about Cubism doesn’t cease; it is killing me. (1)

Many artists’ biographies contain recollections of Tonks, a testament to his importance as a teacher.
Augustus John wrote:
Formerly a surgeon he was a good anatomist, and this fact influenced him greatly in his conception of intelligent drawing…the visits of Tonks were looked forward to with excitement and some alarm, for he was a sharp critic and not given to mincing his words…Tonks had a passion for teaching, and the Slade was his mistress. (2)

Paul Nash’s memories were similar:
Tonks was the Slade and the Slade was Tonks…with hooded stare and sardonic mouth, he hung in the air above me, like a tall question mark, backwards and bent over from the neck… (3)

(1) Tonks to George Moore, quoted in Joseph Hone, The Life Of Henry Tonks, 1939, page 103

(2) Augustus John, Chiaroscuro, 1952 pages 41-42

(3) Paul Nash, Outline, 1988, page 89

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This post was written by joecollinson