Terence Cuneo

Terence Cuneo bigraphy, stories - British artist

Terence Cuneo : biography

1 November 1907 – 3 January 1996

Terence Tenison Cuneo CVO, OBE, RGI, FGRA (1 November 1907 – 3 January 1996) was an English painter famous for his scenes of railways, horses and military action. He was also the official artist for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.


Life and work

Cuneo was born in London, the son of Cyrus Cincinato Cuneo and Nell Marion Tenison, artists who met while studying with Whistler in Paris. Cyrus Cuneo’s elder brother Rinaldo Cuneo was also an acclaimed painter in San Francisco, as was his youngest brother Egisto Cuneo. Terence Cuneo studied at Sutton Valence School, Chelsea Polytechnic and the Slade School of Art, before working as an illustrator for magazines, books and periodicals. In 1936 he started working in oils, continuing with his illustration work. During World War II he served as a sapper but also worked for the War Artists Advisory Committee, providing illustrations of aircraft factories and wartime events. He served and became good friends with fellow artist Cyril Parfitt.

After the war, Cuneo was commissioned to produce a series of works illustrating railways, bridges and locomotives. A significant point in his career was his appointment as official artist for the Coronation of Elizabeth II, which brought his name before the public worldwide. He received more commissions from industry, which included depicting manufacturing, mineral extraction and road building, including the M1. He was most famous for his passion for engineering subjects, particularly locomotives and the railway as a whole. But in fact Cuneo painted over a wide range, from big game in Africa to landscapes. Further success was achieved in his regimental commissions, battle scenes and incidents as well as portraits (including H.M. the Queen, and Field Marshal Montgomery).

Many of these works include a small mouse (sometimes lifelike, sometimes cartoon-like), his trademark after 1956.Antiques Roadshow Series 32; 15. Brooklands, broadcast 17 Jan 2009 They can be difficult to detect, and many people enjoy scouring his paintings to find one. Even some of his portraits of the famous contain a mouse.

His work has been used in a variety of manners, from book jackets and model railway catalogues to posters and jigsaws and even Royal Mail postage stamps. His paintings have appeared on both Great Britain and Isle of Man stamps. His work can also be found in many museums and galleries, including Guildhall Art Gallery, Lloyd’s of London and the Royal Institution.

Cuneo was awarded the OBE and was a CVO. A 1.5 times life size bronze memorial statue of Cuneo, by Philip Jackson, stands in the main concourse at Waterloo Station in London. It was commissioned by the Terence Cuneo Memorial Trust (established March 2002) to create a permanent memorial to the artist, together with an annual prize at the Slade School of Art, given by the Trust. In tribute to Cuneo’s trademark, the statue includes a hidden mouse peering from under a book by the artist’s feet, and another carved into the statue’s plinth near the ground.


Year Title Image Dimensions Collection Comments
1972 Self Portrait
Sir Edward Heath
Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
Her Majesty The Queen with Her Dogs at Frogmore
1944 Untitled (production of tanks), oil 200px The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, UK Scene: workers manufacture Churchill tanks on a factory production line.
1942 Untitled (assassination of Heydrich) (c. 1942), oil 200px The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, UK Subject: SS-General Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942; Operation Anthropoid).
Bentley vs The Blue Train
Express Engines at Tyseley