O'CONNOR, John Scorror

1913 - 2004

John O'Connor

John Scorror O'Connor, was born at Leicester on 11 August 1913, twin son of Vernon Fergus O’Connor (3 December 1875-13 July 1946), an optical instrument maker, whose family came from County Tipperary, Ireland, and his wife Annie Burnet née Scorror (15 July 1883-24 February 1964), who married at St John the Baptist, Leicester on 8 April 1912 and in 1939 were living at 83 Queens Road, Leicester when Vernon was a gas collector and Annie a sub-postmistress. After Wyggeston School and Leicester College of Art 1931-1933, John studied at the Royal College of Art 1933-1937, where his teachers included Eric Ravilious (1903-1942), John Nash [q.v.] and Robert Austin (1895-1973). Each influenced him, but from Ravilious he learned a great love of wood engraving. This was a golden age for private presses and, at the age of 23, O'Connor made engravings for an edition of Joan Rutter's book of poems, ‘Here's Flowers’, the first of his many book illustrations. He married firstly at St Stephen's Church, Westbourne Park Road, London on 27 December 1938, Mary Wilson Henry, only daughter of the late Revd Herbert James Henry, Mary had also been a pupil at Wyggeston and a student at Leicester College of Art. John served as a Flt. Lieut. in the RAF 1940-1946, arriving with the allied troops during the fall of Berlin, and sketched the ruined city. Back in England he married secondly at Filey, North Yorkshire in 1945, Jenny Tennant, a teacher, and they had one son. After war service, O'Connor taught at Hastings School of Art, moving in 1948 as principal of Colchester School of Art (later the Colchester Centre for Art, Design and the Media) where his colleagues included Richard Chopping (1917-2008), who designed the dust-jackets for the James Bond novels, his former teacher John Nash, and Edward Bawden [q.v.]. During his time at Colchester he lived in Suffolk, firstly at Higham then at Shelley, where he saw his favourite painting places in Suffolk, the ponds, willows, briars and honeysuckle, disappear beneath the bulldozer and the combine harvester. He exhibited, from 'Oliver's, near Sudbury, Suffolk, at the Royal Academy in 1953. Leaving Colchester in 1964, he was a visiting lecturer at St Martin's School of Art until 1975 when the O'Connors left Suffolk for Kirkcudbright, Scotland where he was lecturer at Glasgow School of Art 1977-1984, making their home in a single-storey farmhouse and the byre beside the house became a three-room studio. During the 1950s and 60s, O'Connor exhibited at the Zwemmer Gallery in London, and had many exhibitions throughout Britain. His work was purchased by the Arts Council, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum and the Contemporary Art Society, as well as by several local education authorities; it can also be found in the Oslo Museum, the Zurich Museum and at New York central library. In 1947 elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers and in 1974 to the Royal Watercolour Society and was an honorary member of the Society of Wood Engravers. He died on 5 March 2004.

Works by This Artist