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Henry Tonks (1862-1937)

Professor Henry Tonks, NEAC (1862-1937)

Henry Tonks has a special place in the history of twentieth-century British art. Having established himself as a surgeon in the late 1880s, he made great use of his expert knowledge of anatomy in his progression as a draughtsman-painter (and occasional caricaturist). It informed his figure compositions, which synthesised elements of the Rococo, Impressionism and English illustration of the 1860s to distinctively satisfying ends. It also underpinned his almost legendary approach to teaching at the Slade School of Fine Art, when he became assistant to his friend and mentor, Professor Fred Brown, in 1893, and Professor himself, in 1918. He encouraged some of the most talented young artists in the country to use drawing – from the antique, from prints and from life – as the basis for individual development.

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