Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Eric Tansley

The other day I posted some illustrations produced by Eric Tansley for Everybody's magazine. I also recently had an enquiry about him asking if I knew any more about him beyond what I had posted here on 18 April 2008. At the time I had to say no, but decided that I'd do a little more research on him. And I got a lucky break when I managed to locate an address for him, although it wasn't a new one: it was for where he lived in 1950. However, it was the breakthrough I needed and, with a little more digging, I was able to discover a little more about him. All—although it isn't a huge amount—will be revealed in the appended notes at the end of the original entry.

Eric Tansley is a bit of a mystery artist. He wrote and illustrated two books on birds soon after the war, Birds of the Field and Woodland (1948) and Birds of the Hill, Moor and Marsh (1950) and illustrated many books ranging from nature studies to a history of the Wild West. In the 1950s his illustrations appeared in a number of novels published by Blackie & Son and Thomas Nelson & Sons. He was still illustrating books in the 1970s, his last known work appearing in 1975 when he wrote and illustrated Fishing. However, beyond a list of his work (see below), I know nothing about his career.

Tansley's illustrations appeared in Eagle Annual, Swift Annual and Everybody's in the 1950s and he was a long-time contributor to Treasure in the 1960s, producing some delightful covers, usually featuring animals and children.

Eric Arthur James Tansley was born in Gillingham, Kent, on 6 May 1916. He was living in London at 86 Cannon Street, E.C.4 in 1950 and subsequently drifted south through a series of addresses: 90 Warham Road, South Croydon [1953/55], 96 Moat Road, East Grinstead, W. Sussex [1958/59], 32 Reigate Road, Brighton, E. Sussex [1962/69], 20 Kings Drive, Pagham, W. Sussex [1970/72] and finally Claremont, Brook Furlong, Bembridge, Isle of Wight [1975/78]. He died on the Isle of Wight on 27 July 1979. He was buried at Bembridge Cemetery. Tansley was married to (1) Evelyn M. Griffin in 1939 and (2) June Tansley (nee Wilkinson) in 1959. He had one daughter by his first marriage.

Birds of the Field and Woodland. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1948.
Birds of the Hill, Moor and Marsh. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1950.
Fishing. Maidenhead, Purnell, Sep 1975.

Books Illustrated
My First Mother Goose, by Philip Brown. Wilcox & Follett Co., 1946.
Snow Dog, by Jim Elgard. London, John Lehmann, 1949.
Spotlight on Animals, by Chapman Pincher. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1950.
The Flag from the Isles, by William Croft Dickinson. London, Jonathan Cape, 1951.
Ajax, Golden Dog of the Australian Bush, by Mary Elwyn Pratchett. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1953.
Trouble in the Big Top, by Lane Mitchell. London & Glasgow, Blackie & son, 1956.
Conspiracy at Abbey, by Eric Leyland. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Pocomonto and the Spanish Steed, by Rex Dixon. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Rebellion at Prior's, by Eric Leyland. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Stop Thief, by Eric Leyland. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Ivanhoe, by Walter Scott. London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson (Heirloom Library), n.d. (1950s?).
The Book of the West. An epic of America's wild frontier and the men who created its legends, by Charles Chilton. Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1962.
Interesting British Birds, by Kathleen N. Daly; illus. with Robert Aitchen. London, Blackie & Son, 1969.
Love and Marriage, by Edward Lyndoe. London, Spearman, 1970.
Ajax the Warrior, by Mary Elwyn Pratchett. Harmondsworth, Puffin Books, 1972.
Uncle Whiskers, by Philip Brown. London, Andre Deutsch, Nov 1974.

(* All artwork shown here appeared in Treasure in 1964-65 and is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. None of Tansley's books appear to be in print, but some are available second-hand. Many thanks to John Phemister for the photo of Tansley's gravestone, taken 11 November 2011.)


  1. Interesting article. We are just moving house and I found a painting by Eric in the loft. It was given to me by my Grandfather who lived in South Croydon. Completely forgot about it. Not sure when he purchased it and it has no date on the picture.

  2. I have some original artwork by Eric Tansley which was published in Pets Annual - a book for girls about animals published by the Amalgamated Press.

  3. I have just had an original oil by Eric Tansley cleaned and reframed. My father bought it in the early 60's from, I believe, the open air gallery alonside Green Park in London. A riverscape with kingfisher.

  4. i found a painting of eric tansley.it says spring blossom. on the back of it . i know that lisbon library in lisbon n,y. had it because it is stamped on a peice of paper on the back. could anyone tell me when this was painted. an maybe where. thank you.

  5. My mother was married to Eric Tansley at the beginning of WW2. Alas, she knows very little of his life after 1954.

  6. Jennie,

    If your mother is willing, it would be very interesting to learn a little more about Eric's earlier life. Although I can trace a series of addresses, my knowledge of how he got started as an artist, his war service, what he was like as a person and many, many other questions, is zero...

    Any clues or comments would be very welcome.

  7. In 1975 I was sailing in the Cowes Week regatta. In search of a souvenir of the Isle of Wight I ended up with an original oil by "Eric Tansley". It is a picture of Bembridge Mere Quite unlike any of the works I have seen on this blog site. A scenic land and water scape - all light blues, greens and yellows, a very soft impression. Puffy white clouds, reeds,low hills and fields It goes well on my wall.

  8. Eric was a friend of mine. Both he and his wife June were very popular within our village. Eric had a wonderful sense of humor and as a story teller he could keep us entertained for hours. He used to paint in his studio in Bembridge. The work I saw was almost always landscape. But he would often use his illustration skills for accompanying books on bottle collecting written by his wife.

    After his death, I lost contact with June who moved off of the Island and relocated, if my memory serves me right in the Brighton area.

    One story that I can bring is that Eric had a hero.. Richard Burton, who had purchased one of his paintings and I remember Eric being excited when he received an invitation to visit the client on his yacht. But Eric didn't live to make this date. I believe that the former PM Edward Heath also had one of Eric's paintings.. A painting of his boat Morning Cloud.
    If anybody has one of Eric's painting's I'd love to hear from them. remembertheday@me.com

  9. Simon,

    Thanks for sharing your memories of Eric. It's always nice to put some flesh on the bare bones of a biographical sketch - while I can often come up with a list of works and perhaps some dates for births, marriages and deaths, it's only by hearing from people like yourself that we can ever know what a person was actually like.

  10. I'm selling an oil painting by Eric Tansley at Wotton auction rooms on 21 Sept 2010.

  11. I have a beautiful picture called Autumn Woods painted by Eric Tansley. My Grandmother used to get great delight from buying pictures from a local aution, but I don't know very much else about it.

  12. Hi he was my my uncle

  13. Hi Alan,

    Care to add any thoughts and memories about your Uncle?

  14. I would love to know more about Eric Tansley please.

    Does anyone know if there has been some prints of his work with his signature? often original work when print the signature will not be on the print but not sure still,I got one of his painting of a tree like just after a hurricane and it has his name at the bottom right.

    can not tell if it's real or not

  15. I too had a painting left to me by my Grandfather - a scene of a forest/wood with a small pond in the middle with primroses in the forefront of the painting, its oil and believe an original. You can actually fall into the scene its breath taking, would like to know more about it? Thanks.

  16. My Mom has a Eric Tansley Painting of an African woman playing a drum in the middle of a village

  17. I knew Eric. As a child I as well as many of the other children used to gather around at his home, watch him painting and illustrating, he was also my fishing companion. The last work I can remember him doing was a series of self published books on bottle collecting. His wife June was an avid collector. After his death she moved away from the Island to live in Bognor. I do recall that shortly before his death he had sold a painting to Richard Burton and was due to visit the actor on his boat when he died very suddenly. He was a wonderful guy, full of stories and his love of gardening put all others in our road to shame. As an interesting note. Avid dog lover his highland terrier died just a couple of days before Eric. The name 'Nicky' on his gravestone marks his dog who was laid to rest at Eric's feet.

  18. nsmoreco
    Eric was a friend of my father, the artist Frederick Victor Bailey, during the 50's and 60's. I have a photo of Eric, his wife June and my mother at the Brighton Art Show,
    and a photo of my mother and I on the balcony of Eric and June's Montpelier Terrace Flat. I also have a lovely portrait he painted of me as a child. He was a wonderful man and a true gentleman. I remember him fondly.

  19. I used to go with my nan and aunt to stay with eric & june as they were relations of erics when i was young i was always painting odd things & he was so kind watching him paint was a insperation it was very sad when he passed away my aunt was the last one of the family and has now died too it was great to see some of his work on line as i still have two of his prints from my aunts home

  20. I have just acquired a watercolour by Eric Tansley dated 1943, it is a scene from a prisoners view point & I wondered if anybody can verify whether he was a prisoner of war? It appears to be far eastern, Burma or Singapore. I have tried war records sites but no records, it is also strange that no mention is made of this in any of the previous comments.

  21. Eric Tansley was a childhood friend if my mother's in East Dulwich. I have an ink drawing by Eric of Oast houses at Otford that he drew as a 21st birthday present for her in 1936. I also have a watercolour of clapboard houses in Dulwich village which I think is less successful. Eric painted this for my parents as a wedding gift in 1938.
    I have recently contacted the Otford Historical Society to see if anyone can identify the oast houses.
    My mother always said that Eric painted landscapes while Evelyn painted flowers in the foreground of pictures but I have absolutely no evidence that this was their regular practice.

  22. I have a vintage print of 'Moonlit Waters' which I bought in a charity shop in Taunton, and am selling on eBay. It shows a wide bay with mountains in the distance, and trees (possibly pine) either side in the foreground, in predominantly blue tones. It has his signature to the bottom right. It has the original framer's label which was Haigh & Sons, of Southall, Middx. I can find no other reference to it, other than another copy that someone was also selling on eBay in 2012.

  23. Hi Its obvioulsy been some time since this conversation was alive but I have a had a large framed print of "Moonlit Waters" framed in Cape Town South Africa where I lived some 40+ years ago. I always loved the image but only just discovered it was (I presume an image from Africa) I was just wondering if anybody out there knows where the lake scene depicted is exactly?
    I am hoping to travel back to Cape Town South Africa later this year and thought it would be fun to go see the location...if im right and its is there, which I feel fairly certain. Regards ASH Auckland NZ

  24. Today I bought Birds of the Hill Moor and Marsh whilst visiting Barter Books in Alnwick. The illustrations caught my eye as well as that fact that, living on the edge of the West Yorkshire Moors, I have an affinity as it were for some of the birds that Eric detailed.
    It was great to find your blog post. I'm not sure if you are still monitoring comments but thanks for explaining more about this talented artist (and author). Best wishes. Mark.

  25. I just purchased a painting by Eric Tensley that has a title "Moonlight across the lake" any information on this such as when it was painted ?

  26. I just bought one of Eric's oil paintings, a striking portrait: Lady in Red. It is dated 1957. She has grey-blue eyes and reddish hair. I wondered whether the lady in the painting is Eric's wife?



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