DESMOND (JOHN) MORRIS

BIOGRAPHY
1928 Born in the village of Purton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, England on January 24th, the son of Harry Morris (an author of children's fiction) and Marjorie Morris (nee Hunt).
1933 Moves to Swindon, which remains his home until 1951. During this period he develops a strong interest both in writing and natural history. An important family influence is that of his great grandfather, William Morris, who had founded the local newspaper and was also an enthusiastic Victorian naturalist.
1941 Goes as a boarder to Dauntsey's School, Wiltshire, where his interest in zoology is intensified and where he also develops a fascination for the modern movements in the visual arts.
1946 Conscripted into the army for two years National Service. During this period he becomes a lecturer in Fine Arts at the Chisledon Army College and begins painting seriously.
1948 Holds first one-man-show of paintings at the Swindon Arts Centre. In the autumn he enrolls as an undergraduate at the Zoology Department of Birmingham University, following his demobilization from the army.
1950 Shares his first London exhibition of surrealist paintings with Joan Miro, at the London Gallery, organized by Belgian Surrealist Edouard Mesens. Writes and directs two Surrealist films: 'Time Flower' and 'The Butterfly and the Pin'.
1951 Exhibits paintings at an International Arts Festival in Belgium. In the autumn moves to the Zoology Department at Oxford University, having obtained a First Class Honours Degree in Zoology from Birmingham University. At Oxford he begins research for his doctorate in animal behaviour, working for Dr. Niko Tinbergen. His studies are centred largely on reproductive communication systems.
1952 Holds a one-man-show of his paintings at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. In July marries Oxford history graduate, Ramona Baulch. In this year his first scientific paper on animal behaviour is published in the journal 'Behaviour'. This will be followed by 47 other scientific papers during the next 15 years.
1954 Is awarded a D.Phil. degree by Oxford University for his doctoral thesis on the Reproductive Behaviour of the Ten-spined Stickleback. Begins post-doctoral research at Oxford on the reproductive behaviour of birds.
1956 Moves to London to become Head of the Granada TV and Film Unit at the Zoological Society of London, making films and television programmes on animal behaviour and other zoological topics. Begins research project to study the picture-making abilities of apes.
1957 Organizes an exhibition of chimpanzee paintings and drawings at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.
1958 Co-organizes 'The Lost Image' exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall, London, comparing pictures by apes, human infants and human adults. First scientific book published: 'The Reproductive Behaviour of the Ten-spined Stickleback'. (Brill, Leiden). Also, first children's book published: 'The Story of Congo'. (Batsford, London.)
1959 After acting as host for Granada TV's weekly 'Zootime' programme for three years, he leaves the TV and Film Unit at the London Zoo, to become the Zoological Society's Curator of Mammals. During the eight years he holds this post, he continues to present television programmes both for Granada and the BBC, scripting and hosting a total of approximately 500 'Zootime' programmes for Granada and 100 'Life in the Animal World' programmes for BBC2. In addition, he takes part in many BBC radio programmes on natural history subjects and is a regular reviewer of animal books for the Times Literary Supplement. He also becomes co-editor of the International Zoo Yearbook for its first four volumes (1959-1962).
1961 Book published: 'Curious Creatures' (Spring Books, London).
1962 Book published: 'The Biology of Art' (Methuen, London), a study of the picturemaking behaviour of the great apes and its relationship to human art. Later editions appeared in The United States, Sweden, France, Germany, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Mexico, and Hungary.
1964 Children's book published: 'Apes and Monkeys' (Bodley Head, London). Later editions in The United States and Japan.
1965 Reference work published: 'The Mammals, a Guide to the Living Species' (Hodder and Stoughton, London). Also 'Men and Snakes' (Hutchinson, London), with Ramona Morris as co-author. Later editions in The United States and France. Children's book published: 'The Big Cats' (Bodley Head, London). Later editions in The United States, Japan and Holland.
1965 Reference work published: 'The Mammals, a Guide to the Living Species' (Hodder and Stoughton, London). Also 'Men and Snakes' (Hutchinson, London), with Ramona Morris as co-author. Later editions in The United States and France.
1966 Book published 'Men and Apes' (Hutchinson, London), with Ramona Morris as co-author. Later editions in The United States, France, Germany, Japan and Portugal. Also published: 'Men and Pandas' (Hutchinson, London), with Ramona Morris as co-author. Later editions in The United States and Japan. During this period he establishes an informal research unit at the London Zoo comprising Ph.D. students undertaking doctoral work in animal behaviour and other visiting scientists.
1967 Editor: 'Primate Ethology' (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London), a collection of papers on recent advances in the study of monkeys and apes. Later editions appear in The United States and France. Also published: 'The Naked Ape' (Cape, London), a zoologist's study of the human animal. This is the first of a number of books he produces on the subject of human behaviour. Later editions of The Naked Ape include: The United States, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Portugal, Brazil, Finland, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Israel, Japan, Poland, Iceland, Slovak, Czech, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Sinhalese, and Malayalam. In the spring of this year, he resigns his curatorship at London Zoo and becomes the executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, with the initial task of seeing the ICA of its old home and into its new, enlarged premises in The Mall.
1968 Following the unexpected success of 'The Naked Ape', he leaves the ICA and moves with his wife to live in Malta where he can concentrate on writing a sequel and return to his own painting activities. He remains in Malta, writing and painting, for the next five years, with occasional visits to his old university at Oxford. Son Jason is born in Malta.
1969 Book published: 'The Human Zoo'(Cape, London), the sequel to 'The Naked Ape', in which he examines the behaviour of city-dwellers. Later editions in The United States, Japan, Germany, Spain, France, Finland, Turkey, Israel, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iran and Greece.
1970 Collected scientific papers published: 'Patterns of Reproductive Behaviour' (Cape, London). Later edition in the United States.
1971 Book published: 'Intimate Behaviour' (Cape, London), a study of physical contact behaviour among human beings. Later editions in The United States, Japan, Sweden, Portugal, Holland, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Finland. Sets up research headquarters in Malta to undertake ambitious project to produce a comprehensive classification of all human action-patterns, with a view to producing an encyclopedia of human actions
1973 Returns to take up Research Fellowship at Wolfson College and to work again in Niko Tinbergen's animal behaviour research group at the Department of Zoology, Oxford University, continuing his studies of human action-patterns.
1974 Holds one-man-show of Surrealist paintings at Stooshnoff Fine Art Gallery, London, his first exhibition for over 20 years.
1976 Holds four more exhibitions of paintings, following period of intense work in his new Oxford studio: One-man-show at Wolfson College, Oxford; One-man-show at the Quadrangle Gallery, Oxford; One-man-show at the Lasson Gallery, London; and a large retrospective exhibition of 61 works covering 30 years of painting (1946-1976), at the Public Art Gallery in Swindon.
1977 Book published: 'Manwatching, a Field-Guide to Human Behaviour' (Cape, London), a popular presentation of his major investigation into human action-patterns. Later editions in The United States, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Japan. Is elected to the Board of Directors of Oxford United Football Club.
1978 Holds one-man-show of paintings at the Galerie D'eendt in Amsterdam. Is elected Vice-Chairman of Oxford United Football Club.
1979 Book published: 'Gestures, their Origins and Distribution' (Cape, London)with co-authors Peter Collett, Peter Marsh and Marie O'Shaughnessy, a report on a three-year field research project undertaken for the Harry Frank Guggenheim Research Foundation in New York. The project involved a survey of the gestural similarities and differences of forty locations in twenty-five different countries, across Europe and the Mediterranean. Later editions in The United States, Holland, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Portugal and Israel. Also published: 'Animal Days', a first volume of autobiography, covering the early part of his life up to the end of his curatorship at London Zoo in 1967. Later editions in The United States, France, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Israel and Japan. Undertakes a new television series for Thames TV, London, on the subject of human behaviour, called 'The Human Race', to be filmed in 1980 and 1981 for screening in spring of 1982.
1981 Book published: 'The Soccer Tribe', an analysis of the world of professional football. Later editions in The United States, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Spain, and Japan.
1982 Presents the television series 'The Human Race' for Thames TV. Later shown in many other countries. Visits Japan to make a television production called 'Manwatching in Japan', for showing on Japanese TV in autumn 1982. Begins archaeological research for a new book on 'The Art of Ancient Cyprus'.
1983 Novel published: 'Inrock', his first work of fiction, a science fantasy based on the surrealist world portrayed in his paintings. Intended primarily but not exclusively for children. Book published: 'The Book of Ages', a year-by-year survey of human life from birth to death.
1984 Completes work on 'The Art of Ancient Cyprus'.
1985 Book published: 'The Art of Ancient Cyprus'. Also a sequel to 'Manwatching', called 'Bodywatching'.
1986 Books published: an 'Illustrated Naked Ape' edition and two books on pets: 'Catwatching' and 'Dogwatching'. Starts work on a new TV series called 'The Animals Roadshow', co-presented with Sarah Kennedy. A total of 40 of these programmes are made over the next three years.
1987 Book published: a sequel to 'Catwatching' called 'Catlore'. Also published this year was the first book about his paintings, called 'The Secret Surrealist'. In Scotland he covers the Edinburgh Festival for Japanese Television. In France, the French editions of 'Catwatching' and 'Dogwatching' win the Prix Literaire de 30 Million Amis.
1988 Published: the book of 'The Animals Roadshow' TV series. He also carries out a research project on the colours used in decorating human homes. The results published as a report called 'The Human Nestbuilders'. Also produces another book on animals called 'Horsewatching'. Exhibition of paintings at the Shippee Gallery in New York. Starts filming a new TV series called 'The Animal Contract', for Australian television. Exhibition of paintings in Belgium.
1989 Makes two videos on Dogs and Cats. Completes the final programmes for the 'Animals Roadshow' TV series. Starts work on 'Animalwatching' book. Exhibition of paintings at the Mayor Gallery in London.
1990 Books published: 'The Animal Contract', based on the TV series; and 'Animal-watching', a sequel to 'Manwatching', but dealing with the behaviour of non-human animals.
1991 Book published: 'Babywatching'. Exhibition of paintings at the Mayor Gallery in London to coincide with the publication of Michel Remy's book 'The Surrealist World of Desmond Morris'. Also co-presents 13 TV programmes with Sarah Kennedy for ITV called 'Animal Country'.
1992 Co-presents a second series of 'Animal Country' with Sarah Kennedy. (14 half-hour programmes). Makes a Video of 'Babywatching'. Also makes a set of four videos on 'Body Language'. Holds first one-man-show of paintings in Paris. Book published: 'Christmas Watching'.
1993 Retrospective exhibition of paintings, from 1946 to 1993, at the Public Art Gallery in Swindon. Co-presents a third Series of 'Animal Country' with Sarah Kennedy (13 half-hour programmes). Book published: 'The World of Animals'.
1994 Co-presents a fourth series of 'Animal Country' with Sarah Kennedy. Exhibition of paintings at the Mayor Gallery in London. Writes and presents 'The Human Animal', a series of six one-hour TV programmes for BBC-1. Books published: 'The Human Animal'; 'The Naked Ape Trilogy'; 'Illustrated Catwatching'; and 'Bodytalk: a World Guide to Gestures'.
1995 Book published: 'Illustrated Babywatching'. "The Human Animal" wins the Cable Ace Award in Los Angeles for best documentary series. Final (fifth) series of 13 'Animal Country' programmes made for ITV with Sarah Kennedy.
1996 Starts work on new TV series, a sequel to 'The Human Animal' called 'The Human Sexes'.
Books published: 'The Illustrated Dogwatching' and 'Catworld, a Feline Encyclopedia'.
Retrospective exhibition: 'Fifty Years of Surrealism' first at Stoke and then at Nottingham public galleries.
1997 Completes TV series 'The Human Sexes'.
Solo exhibition at the Mayor Gallery to coincide with the publication of Silvano Levy's book: Desmond Morris - Fifty Years of Surrealism.
Book published: The Human Sexes'. Son Jason marries Annie Reeves.
Grand-daughter Matilda is born.
1998 Makes a 37,000 mile journey around the world visiting 21 countries in three months, researching new books and TV series.
Solo exhibitions were held in Newcastle, Brussels and Antwerp.
Awarded Hon. D.Sc. at Reading University.
Book published: The Illustrated Horsewatching.
1999 Three new books published: Cool Cats, the 100 Cat Breeds of the World; Body Guards, Protective Amulets and Charms; The Naked Ape and Cosmetic Behaviour (with co-author Kaori Ishida, in Japanese).
Solo exhibitions in Amsterdam and London, and a fourth volume about the paintings: Desmond Morris - Naked Surrealism, by Silvano Levy.
2000 Publication of THE NAKED EYE, Travels in Search of the Human Species.
Grand-daughter Madeline is born.
2001 Sets off on another round-the-world trip with his wife, visiting 23 different countries.
Publication of DOGS; THE ULTIMATE DICTIONARY OF OVER 1000 DOG BREEDS. Exhibition of paintings at the Galerie Pack-Huys in Mechelen, Belgium.
Publication of the CATALOGUE RAISONNE, by Silvano Levy, of the paintings of Desmond Morris, with over 1300 colour plates.
2002 Holds exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in Ostend, Belgium, at the Mayor Gallery in London and at the Art Consultancy Witteveen, Amsterdam.
Publication of PEOPLEWATCHING, a revised, updated and enlarged version of his 1977 book MANWATCHING.
2003 Makes a three-month journey around the world, visiting the Caribbean, Central America, North America, South Pacific, Australasia, the Far East, Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.
Grand-daughter Annabelle is born.
Exhibition of paintings at Solomon Gallery, Dublin.
2004 Three new books published: 'The Silent Language' (in Italian), 'The Naked Woman; a study of the female body', and 'The Nature of Happiness'.
Holds solo exhibition of paintings at the Mayor Gallery in London.
Grandson Evan is born.
2005 Holds solo exhibitions of paintings in Amsterdam, Madrid and Stratford-upon-Avon. Also organizes an exhibition of paintings by great apes - 'Ape Artists of the 1950s' - at the Mayor Gallery in London.
2006 Makes a three-month journey around the world, visiting the Middle East, Asia, the Far East, Australia and Africa. Publication of a volume of memoirs: WATCHING; Encounters with Humans and Other Animals. Exhibition of paintings at Galerie Pack-Huys in Mechelen, Belgium.
2007 Makes another three-month journey around the world, visiting South America, the Pacific, Australasia, the Far East, USA, Mexico and the Caribbean. Further travels in the summer to Spain, Italy, Croatia and Greece. Publication of THE NAKED MAN; a Study of the Male Body, a sequel to THE NAKED WOMAN of 2004; also a tract DARK INSIDE MY HEAD, published as Surrealist Bulletin No. 2. Exhibition of paintings at the Said Business School in Oxford and at the Taurus Gallery, also in Oxford.
2008 Exhibition of paintings at the Mayor Gallery in London: ‘80th Birthday Retrospective.’ Completes a study of 'The Art of the Kuna'. Travels in the summer to Spain, Gibraltar, France and Italy. New book published: BABY, the amazing story of the first two years of life. Retrospective exhibition of 130 paintings at the Williamson Art gallery in Birkenhead, with accompanying book by Silvano Levy called 'Lines of Thought; The Drawings of Desmond Morris'. Further exhibitions at the Witteveen Gallery in Amsterdam and the Taurus Gallery in Oxford.
2009 Paperback edition of THE NAKED MAN is published. Makes another three-month journey around the world, visiting the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia, the Far East, Australasia, and the South Pacific. In the Summer visits St Petersberg and the Baltic ports. Two new books published: PLANET APE and OWL. Exhibition of paintings at the Taurus Gallery in Oxford.
2010 Exhibition of collages at the Verbeke Foundation in Belgium. Makes another three-month journey around the world, visiting the Carribean, the South Pacific, Australasia, the Far East, Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In the Summer visits Iceland and Greenland to study Eskimo art. Annual exhibition of paintings at the Taurus Gallery in Oxford.
2011 Makes a trip to Alaska to study the Northwest Indian and Eskimo arts. In the Summer visits Venice and the Western Mediterranean. Annual exhibition of paintings at the Taurus Gallery in Oxford.

DESMOND MORRIS INFORMATION PAGE

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Last updated: 02/11/2011