Vera Cuningham


Vera Cuningham

Vera Irene Walpole Martin Cuningham (1897 – 1955), artist with a compelling interest in the female nude, was born at Goff's Oak House, Goff's Oak, Hertfordshire, on November 6 1897, the daughter of William Martin Cuningham (1847–1924), a mechanical engineer, and his wife, Caroline Emily (Lina) Walpole (1860–1949).

She studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, and in 1922 began exhibiting with the London Group, becoming a member in 1927. In 1929 she held her first solo exhibition at the Bloomsbury Gallery. It was through her teacher, Bernard Meninsky, that she was introduced to Smith. After their relationship ended in the mid-1930s, she went on to develop within the English neo-romantic tradition an original interior vision carried out in intense colour, mixing a wide variety of media and techniques. During the Second World War she produced her most assured painting, in between her duties as an air raid warden. It has been suggested that ‘in these paintings, gargantuan figures and grotesque nudes seem to caricature the nudes of Matthew Smith, suggesting an alarming tension between her role as artist and as model’ (F. Spalding, 20th Century Painters and Sculptors, 1990, 137). She died of lung cancer at University College Hospital, London, on 3 May 1955 and was cremated on the 10th at Golders Green crematorium.

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