Nell was the daughter of Edward Ryan Tenison, a doctor who had been a naval surgeon. With no support from her family, she studied at Cope's School before working as an illustrator. She funded her own further training at Colarossi's Academy in Paris, where she won a medal for drawing, and at the Whistler School.
It was at the Whistler she met the Italian-American Cyrus CUNEO (later ROI), marrying him in 1903. Both she and Cyrus worked as illustrators in London, Nell contributing to a variety of periodicals including The Girl's Own Annual, The Girls' Realm, The Ladies' Realm, Woman at Home, Black and White, among others, and illustrating books such as A Terrible Tomboy by Angela Brazil. She worked under both her maiden and married names.
Cyrus tragically died of blood poisoning in 1916 and this affected Nell greatly. She first moved to Dartmoor, then Cornwall, living first at Halsetown and then in St Ives. She bought Down-along House, which she restored, and it became The Copper Kettle (cafe). After 1930 her visits to St Ives became less frequent.
Nell's son Terence CUNEO inherited his mother's talent, attaining great fame as a painter.
Illustrator; figure and portrait painter
RA (11) 1912 (under her maiden name of Tenison), 1913
St Ives March 1923, March 1924
STISA 1934, 37 and 45 Touring Shows
St Ives Times 23 Mar 1923, 21 Mar 1924
Buckman (2006) Dictionary of Artists in Britain since 1945
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p320)
Hoyle, H (Sept 2010 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) Review of 'Sea Change' exhibition, Penlee House)
Johnson & Greutzner (1975) Dictionary of British Artists
Peppin & Micklethwait (1984) Book Illustrators of the Twentieth Century
Tovey (2000) GF Bradshaw & STISA (Appendix 3: Principal Members of STISA 1927-1960)
(2003) Creating a Splash (p141)
(2009) St Ives: Social History
Whybrow (1994) St Ives (1994) (1921-1939 list pp 219-21)
The Year's Art