Desmond Morrisb. 1928
Desmond Morris was born in Purton, Wiltshire in 1928. His interest in surrealism began when he was at boarding school during World War II and he made his first surrealist drawings in 1944. He was conscripted into the army in 1946 and in 1947 was appointed lecturer in fine arts at the Chisledon Army College. In 1948 he held his first solo exhibition. In 1950 he shared his first London exhibition with Joan Miro at the London Gallery of Edouard Mesens. In the same year he made a surrealist film Time Flower. During this period he was an active member of the Birmingham surrealist group led by Conroy Maddox. With a degree in zoology from Birmingham University, he moved to Oxford University in 1951 to study for a doctorate in animal behaviour. Whilst there he held an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in 1952 and in the same year married Oxford graduate Ramona Baulch. For the next 20 years he devoted himself to his zoological career and, although he stopped exhibiting during this period, he always maintained a studio and never ceased painting. In 1974 he began exhibiting again in London and, since then, has held 49 solo exhibitions in England, France, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and the USA, including six retrospectives. At the age of 90 he is still actively painting in his Oxford studio.
Morris' 'double-life', as a zoologist by day and painter of dreamlike images by night, was explored in a documentary which aired last year on BBC4. More recently, the art critic Mark Hudson explored Morris' standing as the last living surrealist, in an article for The Daily Telegraph (5 May). In the same newspaper, Colin Gleadell wrote that two thirds of the 103 works by Morris on show at the Redfern Gallery, had already sold at the time of publication (22 May), in his 'Art market focus' column.