In early 1947 John Tunnard painted Holiday following a commission from School Prints Ltd. The inventive School Prints scheme was founded by Brenda Rawnsley (1916-2007), who proposed to produce a series of lithographs by well-known British artists, to be sold to schools at affordable prices and in large editions. This was a powerful demonstration of post-war British optimism, enabling school children to be surrounded by original art works by contemporary artists at a time of extreme austerity, and allowing them to experience these works first hand and in their own environment.
In her introductory letter to the artists, Rawnsley wrote: 'We are producing a series of auto-lithographs, four for each term, for use in schools, as a means of giving school children an understanding of contemporary art'. Rawnsley was adamant not to patronise children with the images presented in the School Prints, and wrote that 'the pictures themselves are far from being juvenile in their concept. While they definitely hold the interest of the children and appeal to their imaginations, they are sophisticated by adult standards ... School Prints chose to abandon the antiquated theory of exposing children to inane nursery pictures, in favour of developing taste upon a level of acknowledged artistic values' (cited in L. Buck, loc. cit.).
Two major series were produced in 1946 and 1947, and were chosen by a selection committee which included art critic Herbert Read. The most notable and now familiar works were by John Nash, Henry Moore, L.S. Lowry and John Tunnard. In January 1947, Tunnard received a letter from his gallery, Lefevre, inviting him to join the scheme: 'You may perhaps have heard of the organisation called 'School Prints', which commissions suitable artists to produce lithographs for distribution to Elementary schools, as part of the Visual Education programme, so neglected here hitherto. I proposed your name as a likely choice to the person who bears the responsibility for selecting the artists. She came to your present Show at my suggestion, and was delighted with it' (quoted in A. Peat and B. Whitton, ibid., pp. 85-86).
In Holiday, Tunnard upholds his distinctive style: Mel Gooding describes the work as being 'in his best vein of semi-abstract surrealist fantasy' ('School Prints', Arts Review, July 1980). At the same time Tunnard presents us with an optimistic and dynamic image which evokes a sense of fun and enjoyment, which is reinforced by the title of the painting. 'It conveys the gayness and irresponsibility which is predominantly one's feeling of a really good holiday' (The School Prints' notes, sited in L. Buck, loc. cit.).