(1924 - 2001)
Earnshaw was born in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. He attended Harehills
School until the age of 14.
He worked as an engineering fitter, later as a lathe turner and a
crane driver, while educating himself at the city library. At 20 he
became interested in surrealism and, with his lifelong friend Eric
Thacker, devised surreal activities such as boarding and alighting
from trains at random. In the early 1960s he met several
like-minded people, including Patrick Hughes, Ian Breakwell and
Glen Baxter. Hughes persuaded Earnshaw to hold a retrospective at
the Leeds Institute in 1966, which was followed by an exhibition in
Exeter, "The Enchanted Domain", to which he was invited by John
He began teaching part-time, first at the Harrogate School of Art,
then Bradford Art School before leaving engineering altogether in
1972 to take up a fellowship at Leeds Polytechnic. He left in 1985
to concentrate on art.
In 1968 he collaborated with Thacker on an illustrated novel,
Musrum, which - although not particularly successful
commercially - became a cult classic. The book was a fantasy,
peppered with aphorisms ("Sudden prayers make God jump"), and told
the story of the title character's kingdom and of his battle with
the nefarious Weedking. It was followed in 1971 by a sequel,
Wintersol, about the secret criminal nature of Father
Christmas. Both books were praised for their elegant writing, wit
and wordplay, and especially for their sheer invention.
Later publications included a cartoon in the Times Educational
Supplement, a wheeled bird named Wokker, and books of
aphorisms, the largest being Flick Knives and Forks in
1982. In the 1980s and 1990s Earnshaw began making boxed
In 2012 one of his early works has been included in the Tate collection.