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Etcher, draughtsman, painter, teacher and writer, Tanner was born in Bristol, but spent most of his life in northwest Wiltshire, which was the main subject of his work. He attended Goldsmiths' College and also taught at a poor school in Greenwich. He studied at Greenwich School of Art in the evenings, his teachers including Clive Gardiner and Stanley Anderson. Tanner was influenced by Blake, Palmer and FLM Griggs. He was elected to the Society of Painters in Tempura in 1934. He continued to paint and show work, whilst becoming a schools inspector in 1935, working initially in Leeds, then in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, where he advocated liberal ideas in arts and crafts teaching. He was a painstaking craftsman, completing only about 40 plates. Tanner was a Quaker who revered the countryside and traditional crafts. Among his books were 'Wiltshire Village', 1939; 'Flowers of the Meadow', 1948; and his autobiography, 'Double Harness', 1987. There was a retrospective at City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1980-1. Wine Street Gallery in Devizes held a substantial exhibition in 2003.