My haven: Anthropologist, artist and TV presenter, Desmond Morris, 83, in the studio at his Oxfordshire home
Desmond Morris at his house in Oxford surrounded by some of his favourite things including his great-grandfather's brass microscope and a painting he completed a few months ago
1 MY INSPIRATION
The most precious object I own is my great-grandfather’s brass microscope. I found it in the attic when I was a child, and using it led to the two pursuits that have dominated my entire life – zoology and art. I began drawing the organisms I saw under the lens and exhibited my first collection of work in 1948. Although I use modern microscopes today, I would never part with this one.
2 CAVE CUBES
When my wife Ramona and I visited a mineral fair a few years ago I fell in love with this amazing object, so she secretly bought it for me. It’s a piece of cave wall dotted with dozens of pyrite cubes with such precise edges and smooth faces it’s hard to believe they’re natural. My old friend David Attenborough came to see it and said, ‘You may have more cubes than I have, but mine are bigger!’
3 HEAVY, MAN!
Seven years ago my son Jason bought this huge fossil from a gallery in Ireland for my birthday. It’s so heavy I can hardly lift it. It’s called Cladocyclus and I discovered that 110 million years ago itwas a very fast and ferocious marine predator. I value it highly, partly because it’s a relief to find something older than me, but even more so because my son went to so much trouble to get it to my studio.
4 I'VE BEEN FRAMED
This is a favourite painting of mine, completed only a few months ago. It’s number 2365 out of the 2392 I’ve done since I began in 1944. I have no idea what drives me on, but it certainly makes my haven a place of work as well as a place of rest. I’m fascinated by the totem poles of American Indians and allowed my Biomorphs, the strange beings that have inhabited my work since the 40s, to grow out of the tops of them.
5 100 NOT OUT!
It was a schoolboy ambition of mine to visit 100 countries before I die and I did it in February 2010 when I set foot on Christmas Island in the Pacific. The islanders are a delightful people who live in small villages, three of which are quaintly called Banana, London and Poland. The women make these ornaments out of cowrie shells and this is very special to me because it symbolises my lifetime of travel.
6 DUMMY RUN
Many years ago I found this tailor’s dummy in a junk shop and I’ve added bits to it from faraway lands so it’s developed its own bizarre character. There’s an antique scythe I found in Cyprus and a doctor’s birdmask from Croatia (the long beak kept the doctor at a distance from infectious patients). On its head I placed a wig I found on Pier 39 in San Francisco and a coolie hat from Java.
Recent paintings by Desmond Morris are on show at the Taurus Gallery, North Parade, Oxford, tel: 01865 514870.