Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Henry Tonks:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Tonks, Henry, 1862-1937
Title: Henry Tonks Collection
Dates: 1877-1947
Extent: 3 boxes (1.26 linear feet)
Abstract: The Henry Tonks Collection consists primarily of Tonks' correspondence, manuscripts, and notes plus correspondence regarding Tonks, all used by Joseph Maunsell Hone in his biography of the artist.
Language: English
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchase, 1959

Processed by:

Jamie Hawkins-Kirkham, 2010

Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Henry Tonks, born on April 9, 1862, in Solihull, Warwickshire, was an English painter and art teacher. Tonks attended Clifton College, then studied medicine at London Hospital, Whitechapel. In 1887, Tonks began a successful surgical career at the Royal Free Hospital where he worked until 1892, when he became an anatomy demonstrator at the London Hospital medical school in order to have more free time for painting. His knowledge of human anatomy would later be an integral part of both his own art and his teaching.

Starting in 1887 Tonks attended the Westminster School of Art in his free time, where he studied under Frederick Brown. In 1891, he exhibited his first paintings at the New English Art Club. By 1893, Tonks had completely abandoned his medical career to pursue a career in painting and teaching, when he attained a position at the Slade School of Art in London as assistant professor to his former teacher, Frederick Brown.

At the onset of World War I, Tonks went back into medicine, working with prisoners at a camp hospital in Dorchester, then at Hill Hall, Essex. He also worked as an orderly with a British ambulance unit. During this time he began making drawings of facial wounds from the war which were later published in a book titled Plastic Surgery of the Face. In 1918, he was appointed official war artist.

In 1919, Tonks succeeded Frederick Brown as professor at the Slade School of Art in London, where he would teach until his retirement in 1930. After his retirement, Tonks continued to paint until his death on January 8, 1937.


Hopkins, Justine. "Tonks, Henry." Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/ (accessed 4 October 2010).

Morris, Lynda. "Tonks, Henry (1862-1937)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/36535 (accessed 4 October 2010).


The Henry Tonks Collection consists primarily of Tonks' correspondence, manuscripts, and notes plus correspondence regarding Tonks, all used by Joseph Maunsell Hone in his biography of the artist. The collection is arranged in three Series: I. Works (1915, undated), Series II. Correspondence (1877-1939), and Series III. Joseph Maunsell Hone Papers Regarding Henry Tonks (1879-1947). Part of this collection was previously accessible through a card catalog but has been recataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project.

The Works Series consists primarily of short, unpublished works by Tonks, many of which are untitled. Among these are nine handwritten works on the nature of art, including such subjects as the principles of drawing, the artist and society, the practical difficulties of painting, as well as one manuscript that reveals why Tonks became an artist. In addition to Tonks' writing on art, the Works Series contains Tonks' translation of a German article on drawing( "The Golden Compasses" ), a description of Tonks' war service in Italy, and two typed manuscripts describing Tonks' close friend George Moore, which were used by Hone in his biography, The Life of George Moore (1936).

The Correspondence Series is divided into outgoing and incoming letters and is arranged alphabetically by recipient or sender. Outgoing correspondence is made up of letters from Tonks to close friends and students, including twelve letters to Joseph Maunsell Hone regarding George Moore, six letters to his student Aubrey Waterfield regarding the conditions under which artists must be expected to live, and 58 letters to Nelson Ward, four of which are illustrated and addressed to "Felix Baumgartner." Incoming correspondence makes up the bulk of this series and includes significant amounts of letters from Tonks' professor Frederick Brown, Sir Augustus Daniel, and John Fothergill, a life-long friend of Tonks. All correspondent names are included in the Index of Correspondence in this finding aid.

Series III., Joseph Maunsell Hone Papers Regarding Henry Tonks, consists of notes and correspondence used by Hone in his biography of the artist, The Life of Henry Tonks, (1939) and is arranged alphabetically by author or sender. These include descriptions of Tonks made by close friends and students of Tonks as well as correspondence between friends of the artist regarding his life and character.


Additional manuscript material by Tonks may be found in several other manuscript collections at the Ransom Center: Laurence Binyon, Edward Gordon Craig, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Francis John Clarence Westenra Plantaganet Hastings, 15th Earl of Hastings, Joseph Maunsell Hone, Alfred Edward Houseman, Mary Hutchinson, Julian Sorrell Huxley, Wyndham Lewis, Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes, Dugald Sutherland MacColl, George Moore, Sir William Orpen, Sir William Rothenstein, and R. J. Whistler. Tonks is included in three drawings by Max Beerbohm in the Art Collection. An image of a bust of Tonks, a portrait of Tonks with Walter John Low Northbourne, an image of Tonks' friend P. Wilson Steer with a woman, a portrait of Eric Gill looking at a mosaic, and a view of the beach with nude figures drawn in by Tonks are included in Photography in the Literary File Collection. Clippings and other ephemera can be found in the Vertical File Collection.