Terence Cuneo (1907–1996) was an English painter famous for his scenes of railways, horses, ceremonies, and military action. He was not only one of the world’s greatest military painters, he was also one of the top railway artists as well.
Terence Cuneo lived Molesey for nearly 50 years, at 201 Ember Lane in East Molesey during which time he was commissioned to paint the portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and King Hussein of Jordan.
Terence Cuneo was born in London on November 1st 1907. His parents Cyrus and Nell were both artists who met while studying with Whistler in Paris. Terence studied at the Chelsea Polytechnic and Slade School of Art. He became an illustrator for several magazines and book publishers. During World War Two he joined the army and became a sapper but also worked with the War Artists Advisory Committee, and in this role, he produced illustrations of various factories during wartime and other wartime events.
Soon after the end of the war he was commissioned to produce a series of paintings of railways and their locomotives. And this was followed by being appointed the official artist for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which helped promote Terence Cuneo to a worldwide audience and several major commissions followed. Many of these works include a small mouse (sometimes lifelike, sometimes cartoon-like), his trademark after 1956. 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.
Sadly in 1996 Terence Cuneo passed away, but he has left us with a fantastic collection of fine paintings of military history and steam locomotive paintings, which are collected around the world and are very sought after. Terence Cuneo was admired and respected by his peers and public. Cuneo was awarded the OBE and was a CVO. A 1.5 times life size bronze memorial statue of Cuneo, by Philip Jackson, stood in the main concourse at Waterloo station in London for many years, but has now been relocated to Brompton Barracks, Chatham.
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.
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.