Desmond Morris

Born in 1928 - United Kingdom


Born in 1928 in Wiltshire, Desmond John Morris is an English zoologist, writer and painter.

In the beginning of the 50s, Desmond Morris joined the Department of Zoology of the University of Oxford in order to make a thesis on animal behavior. Three years later, he became a teacher specialized in the reproductive behavior of the stickleback fish. He concentrated then on the study of birds and of big apes.
With the latter, he created a project about the pieces made by a chimpanzee called Congo.The pieces were exhibited by the Institute of Contemporary Arts of London.

In order to make zoology accessible to everybody, he became the presenter of the television program "Zoo Time" in the 60s, and he made a television show about zoology books.
Desmond Morris became a pioneer of human ethology with his book " The Naked Ape" which has sold over 10 million copies.

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Solo Art Showings

Swindon Art Centre Swindon 1948
London Gallery London 1950
Ashmolean Museum Oxford 1952
Stooshnoff Fine Art London 1974
Quasrangle Gallery Oxford 1976
Wolfson College Oxford 1976
Lasson Gallery London 1976
Public Art Gallery Swindon 1977
Galerie d'Eendt Amsterdam 1978
Mayor Gallery London 1987
Shipee Gallery New York 1988
Keats Gallery Knokkle-le-Zoute 1988
Mayor Gallery London 1989
Mayor Gallery London 1991
Galerie Michele Heyraud Paris 1991
Public Art Galley Swindon 1993
Mayor Gallery London 1994
Public art galleries Stoke and Nottingham 1996
Mayor Gallery London 1997
Charleston Gallery Sussex 1997
Public Art Gallery Buxton 1997
Clayton Gallery Newcastle 1998
Keitelman Gallery Brussels 1998
Rossaert Gallery Antwerp 1998
Witteveen Gallery Amsterdam 1999

Television and film[edit]

In 1950 Desmond Morris made his first entrance into film and television,[1] writing and directing two surrealist films entitled Time Flower and The Butterfly and the Pin. His next officially noted stop in television was in 1956 when he moved to London in order to assume the position at the Zoological Society of London as Head of the Granada TV and Film Unit. Morris’s job thus included creating programmes for both film and television on the topic of animal behaviour and other various zoology-orientated topics. His job remained as a host for Granada TV’s weekly Zoo Time programme for the following three years up until 1959. During his time period of this position, a total of eight years, Morris scripted and hosted a total of 500 Zoo Time programmes, along with 100 episodes of the show Life in the Animal World for BBC2.[1] During this time he also dabbled in radio for the BBC on topics of natural history. However, he left the Film & TV unit at the London Zoo in order to become the Zoological Society’s Curator of Mammals (1959).[1]

After a long break from the world of television, Morris re-entered the game in 1979, undertaking a new television series for Thames TV. The series was called The Human Race, focusing of course on the matter of human behaviour. The shows filming ran on schedule and was presented on television in 1982, later the series was shown in many other countries as well. That same year, Morris travelled to Japan for another television expedition to make a production titled Man Watching in Japan, which was shown on Japan Television in that autumn of 1982. After another short intermission, in 1986 Morris started working on yet another new TV series (co-presented by British TV Broadcaster Sarah Kennedy) which was called The Animals Road Show. The show totalled 40 programmes over the next three years, as well as a book published on the series within that time frame.[1] One the show's second year airing, Morris began filming another TV series that was called The Animal Contract. The show aired for Australian television, wrapping up in 1989. Although The Animal Road Show ended in 1989 also, Morris and Kennedy reunited in 1992 to show a second series of exactly fourteen half-hour episodes. This was followed by a third series the following year in 1993, with thirteen half-hour programmes. This was followed by a fourth series in 1994, and finally a fifth in 1995, all with Sarah Kennedy. In 1994, Morris also wrote then presented a series of six one-hour TV episodes for BBC1, called The Human Animal. This series went on to win the Cable Ace Award in Los Angeles for best documentary series in 1995. The following year Morris began to work on The Human Sexes, a new TV sequel to The Human Animal, which was completed in 1997.

Zootime (Weekly, 1956–67)
Life (1965–67)
The Human Race (1982)
The Animals Roadshow (1987–89)
The Animal Contract (1989)
Animal Country (1991–96)
The Human Animal (1994)
The Human Sexes (1997)


In 1964 he was invited to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture on Animal Behaviour.

The Biology of Art (1963) – a look at the paintings of primates and their relation to human art
The Big Cats (1965) - part of The Bodley Head Natural Science Picture Books, looking at the habits of the five Big Cats, the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, and the cheetah.[5]
The Mammals: A Guide to the Living Species (1965) — a comprehensive and compelling listing of all mammal genera, all non-rodent non-bat species, and additional information on select species.
The Naked Ape (1967) — an unabashed look at the human species. The book is notable for its focus on humanity's animalistic qualities and our similarity with other apes. Reprinted many times and in many languages, it continues to be a best-seller.
The Human Zoo (1969) — a continuation of the previous book, analysing human behaviour in big modern societies and their resemblance to animal behaviour in captivity.
Intimate Behaviour (1971) — In "Intimate Behaviour" Morris studies the human side of intimate behaviour from clapping to cutting hair, from the embrace to copulation. Morris examines how natural selection shaped human physical contact in and how intimate behaviours are expressed and/or repressed in modern culture. Morris explains the origins of complex and mundane human signaling and body contact relating much of it to the pre-natal condition in the womb and the experience of the protection and attention that children receive when young and helpless. Morris infers that most intimate contact is a variation or repetition of such comforting and secure contact which is expressed in thinly disguised forms from pats on the back to massage "therapy". Morris describes an increasingly rigid modern society empty of typical physical interaction in public and how people compensate by enacting intimate behaviour in other forms in private or through deviant behaviour in public.
Manwatching: A Field Guide to Human Behaviour (1978)
Gestures: Their Origin and Distribution (1979)
Animal Days (1979) — Autobiographical
The Soccer Tribe (1981)
Pocket Guide to Manwatching (1982)
Inrock (1983)
Bodywatching – A Field Guide to the Human Species (1985) — Hundreds of photos analyzing the human body from hair down to the feet.
Catwatching: & Cat Lore (1986) — a study of one of the most popular of household pets across the centuries.
Dogwatching (1986) — an in-depth study of "man's best friend".
Horsewatching (1989) — subtitled "Why does a horse whinny and everything else you ever wanted to know"
Animalwatching (1990)
Babywatching (1991)
Bodytalk (1994)
The Human Animal (1994) — book and BBC documentary TV series
The Human Sexes (1997) — Discovery/BBC documentary TV series
Cat World: A Feline Encyclopedia (1997)
The Naked Eye (2001)
Dogs: The Ultimate Dictionary of over 1,000 Dog Breeds (2001)
Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language (2002)
The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body (2004)
Linguaggio muto (Dumb language) (2004)
The Nature of Happiness (2004)
Watching (2006)
The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body (2008)
Baby: A Portrait of the First Two Years of Life (2008)
Planet Ape (2009)
Owl (2009)

Major events[edit]
In 1951 upon moving his studies to Oxford University, Desmond studied under Dr. Nikolaas Tinbergen, a Dutch ethologist and ornithologist, who in 1973 shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with two other scientists for their discoveries.
Holds one man art show at the world’s first university museum (Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) in 1952, in Oxford.
In 1952 the journal Behavior, published Morris’s first scientific paper on animal behavior. He produced 47 more over the next fifteen years.[1][6]
Awarded Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil) in 1954 by Oxford University, his thesis on the "Reproductive Behaviour of the Ten-spined Stickleback".
First scientific book published in 1958: The Reproductive Behaviour of the Ten-spined Stickleback as well as a children’s book titled The Story of Congo.
In 1983, Desmond published his first fiction novel, called Inrock (science fiction, fantasy), reflective of the surrealist world he created within his paintings. Said to be primarily aimed towards children, but not entirely.
In 1992 Desmond held his first one-man showing of his paintings in Paris.
In 1996 an exhibition titled “Desmond Morris 50 Years of Surrealism” was held at both Stoke Gallery, and then second Nottingham Public Gallery. Followed by a solo exhibit at Mayor Gallery in 1997 to coincide with Desmond's official biographer Silvano Levy’s book entitled Desmond Morris: 50 Years of Surrealism.
In 1998 Desmond Morris is awarded the honour of becoming a Doctor of Science by the University of Reading in Reading, Berkshire.

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