John Wonnacott: A Biographical Study

This publication is the first major study of the life and work of the Southend-on-Sea based painter John Wonnacott CBE, whose work was produced at a tangent to the orthodoxies of Modernism.

Written by Charles Saumarez Smith, the book explores the artist’s formative experiences: from studying at the Slade, creating numerous portraits and commissions of people such as John Major and the Royal Family, teaching at Reading and Norwich, and the joy of his landscape paintings that celebrate his native Essex coastline.

The cover draws on shades from Wonnacott’s landscapes, featuring a bold green cover paper that opens up onto sky blue end papers. The front cover features a tipped-on self-portrait of the artist, Self-Portrait with an Apple for G (2017), and the back cover contains a landscape, Chalkwell Beach, Floodwater Overflow, Late Afternoon (1989–92). Two very present aspects of his practice.




Charles Saumarez Smith


156 × 234 mm




Three quarter bound


Section Sewn




Starling, Quadrant Mono

The interior of the publication intersperses playfully positioned imagery throughout the text. Sometimes sitting between paragraphs, other times bleeding off of one edge. Occasionally breaking the flow of the book by running several pages of artwork only pages.

The internal paper is a lighter weight than what is usually expected, allowing a slight show-through of the content from the next page to give a feeling of texture to sit behind the text pages.

The book is typeset in two contrasting typefaces. Starling is used for body text – an elegant serif face with references taken from painted boat names, nodding to the shorelines that are often present in Wonnacott’s landscapes. The second typeface is Quadrant Mono, a monospace serif typeface that gives a voice to quotations, breaking into the main story narrative.