Celebrity scientist completes art book after 57-year effort

thisisoxfordshire: Desmond Morris at home in Oxford Desmond Morris at home in Oxford

RENOWNED behavioural scientist Desmond Morris has fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition by completing the art book he started more than 50 years ago.

“I started it in 1956 and wanted to finish it before I conked out,” said Dr Morris, who lives in North Oxford.

“I will be 86 in a few weeks’ time and my future is behind me so I didn’t want to die without finishing it.

“I was determined to visit 100 countries before I finished the book and in total I have been to 107 countries.”


The Artistic Ape


Mr Morris’s The Artistic Ape, is out now in hardback.

To coincide with the publication, the author, best known for his classic The Naked Ape, has an exhibition of his own paintings at the Taurus Gallery in North Parade Avenue, Oxford.

His new book looks at art through the ages, from prehistoric to modern times, and Mr Morris questions man’s desire to be creative.

Mr Morris, who paints in a surrealist style, said: “I started out as an artist and had my first exhibition in 1948 but I didn’t succeed and I started a scientific career and went on TV and that took off in a big way.

“I became the director of the London Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1967 and got to meet all these artists, which for me was very exciting as I learned about their methods and personalities and you can’t get that from books.

Related links

“I thought some art historians might attack me for this book because I give equal importance to a scribble by a small child as I do a Leonardo (da Vinci).

“Great art is sublime and this book is about the urge to be creative.”

Father-of-one Mr Morris, who lives with wife Ramona, is unable to sleep at night without painting or writing.

“I often wonder how she puts up with me spending so much time writing and painting,” he said.

“We like our own space and we are a good match.”


The inspiration for his classic book The Naked Ape


Mr Morris, whose son Jason, 45, is director of racing at Horse Racing Ireland, describes Oxford as the “perfect, seductive city”.

The grandfather-of-four says Oxford is lucky to have the Ashmolean Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum and Modern Art Oxford, and added that one of his favourite paintings is Uccello’s The Hunt in the Forest from 1470, which is in the Ashmolean.

When asked if The Artistic Ape would be his last book, he said: “I have written another one since about leopards.

He added: “There are hundreds of art books but I wanted to say why people are so obsessed with art.

“I grew up in World War Two and saw people killing each other and I thought: This species is bonkers.”

The Artistic Ape is published by Red Lemon Press, price £30.


Comments are closed on this article.


About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree