The proposed changes to our education system have rightly been a topic of the press recently. As it so happens, a man who spent most of his life in North Wiltshire was pivotal to the development of art in education - I’d like to tell you a little about him here…
Robin Tanner was born on Easter Sunday, 1904, the third of six children. He spent his teenage years in Kington Langley, the birthplace of his mother.
Robin attended Chippenham Grammar School before moving on Goldsmith’s College, studying to become a teacher. Whilst at the college he took evening classes to learn the craft of etching. He was one of a number who turned their backs on the popular ‘en plein’ air etchings, fashionable in the 1920s. Tanner covered the whole of his plates with etching, wanting to create a ‘pastoral revival’. He loved his home in Kington Langley ‘a pastoral dairy country with small meadows and high hedges. There is an ancient church every three miles or so in any direction’. Many of Robin’s etchings were created at his house and were of local scenes, such as the wicket gate into Sydney’s wood where the renowned 19th century poet and clergyman Francis Kilvert often walked. Tanner’s father also had artistic talent, becoming a craftsman in wood.
After marrying Heather Spackman from Corsham on Easter Saturday in 1931, the Tanners moved to Old Chapel Field in Kington Langley. Robin began teaching at Ivy Lane School, Chippenham, in 1929 (he had previously spent a year there as a student teacher). Heather was a writer, and they produced some works together, such as ‘Country Alphabet’ and ‘Woodland Plants’, using Heather’s text and Robin’s etchings.