A retrospective of the life and work of fine artist and cartoonist Jon Peaty is to be staged at Shoreham’s Skyway Gallery next month, running 10th – 30th September 2022.
Born 7th March 1914, John Archibald Peaty (Jon dropped the “h” sometime during World War Two), was a Welsh-born artist who worked in London before the war and lived in Southwick, West Sussex, UK from 1946 – 1972. In 1973, he moved to North Yorkshire, which was then his base until the end of his life. He is mainly known as a painter of landscapes and portraits, but he also had a successful career as a commercial artist from the 1930s through to the 1960s.
This exhibition is the first retrospective displaying a range of the artist’s work, including paintings, cartoons, advertising and illustrative material.
Despite creating much commercial work during his long career, including cartoons, Jon’s principal interest through the whole of his working life was painting. Working mainly in oils, it was through landscape and portrait painting that he made a living in the latter part of his career. The artist also made a significant contribution to community life through involvement in theatre and art clubs and by teaching.
His official web site, compiled by his son, David, notes Jon’s talent as an artist was recognised at school, going on to study at the City of Cardiff Technology College (now the University of Wales Institute – Cardiff) in 1930, studying general drawing, anatomy, perspective and the history of architecture. But in his late teens, he took up a place at The Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, and, during 1933 or 1934 he came into the orbit of artist Walter Sickert, and attended classes at Sickert’s atelier on Highbury Fields in North London.
Jon himself put it that he was “singled out for special tuition” and spent about a year learning from the then aged painter. Meanwhile, alongside classes at the Central School, he also worked part-time for companies such as Charles Knight and William Brown Printers. He also freelanced at Crane Studios, his work including work as a Fleet Street cartoonist until 1939
He also worked in the British film industry, primarily painting scenery, but was sometimes drafted in as an extra for crowd scenes. His credits include the film Charley’s (Big-Hearted) Aunt starring Arthur Askey, made in 1940, and Jon has been spotted, playing a member of a theatre audience. He also worked on the sets of films such as Fire over England (1937) and A Yank at Oxford (1938).
During World War Two, he enlisted in the Welch Regiment, rising to 2nd lieutenant and later Captain, marrying Mary Joy Fellingham in 1942 before being dispatched to Kenya, where he would remain until 1945, working as a staff officer in camouflage, using his artistic skills for wartime purposes. He continued to nurture his theatre interests, through stage settings at the Theatre Royal Niarobi – the Garrison Theatre, and also contributed graphic and cartoon work to Forces publications.
Returning to England in 1945, resuming married life, he took up the role of commercial artist once more, living on a houseboat, The Shorehame, between 1947 and 1949, moored below the Schooner pub in the Lady Bee Yard on Aldrington basin in Southwick, West Sussex, and joined the Southwick Players.
Alongside his oil painting and amateur theatre endeavours, commercial work in the 1940s and 50s, commissioned through studios and agencies in London and Brighton, included advertising, publication cover design, signage, and shop décor, including murals such as one for the penthouse of the Metropole Hotel, in Brighton, and illustration work for children’s annuals – including Swift and Girl.
In his 2011 article about Jon on Bear Alley, Steve Holland quotes correspondence from artist R. D. Farley, aka Bob Farley, who knew Peaty in the 1950s and 1960s and at one stage worked in the same studio, the Pointel Design Company, on Villier’s Street. Bob mentions seeing Jon working on comic strips after the studio moved to Kennington Cross, which Steve suggests may have been at the behest of Kenneth King and Malcolm Ganteaume, of the King-Ganteaume agency who also supplied strips to a number of Len Miller’s comics.
“He may also have been, contemporarily, working for Bailey-Soustar on comics published by Sports Cartoons / Man’s World,” Steve suggests. “If this is the case, Peaty would have been in good company as these two agencies had such talents as Joe Colquhoun, Jim Holdaway, Syd Jordan and Philip Mendoza on their books.”
During the 1950s, Jon also became one of the foremost creators of commercial mobiles, involving a number of card ‘push-out’ designs were strung in delicate balance from barely visible nylon twine. Their movement in a draught attracted the eye of potential customers as they entered or moved about a shop, and required a special knack to create them, to ensure they were crafted with the appropriate balance of weight between the different card shapes, so that they didn’t collapse on each other.
Although continuing his commercial work into the 1960s to supplement his income, it was then that Jon decided to attempt a living from his painting, gradually building his career as a professional landscape and portrait painter, and teacher, achieving his goal in 1965 after numerous exhibitions, aided by a decade-long association with the American Women’s Club at Cadogan Gardens in London.
His success and reputation grew in subsequent decades, despite some ill health, and he continued to enjoy deserved success in his field for the rest of his life.
In addition to his professional life, Jon also made an important contribution to the life of his local community. He founded Southwick Art Club, and designed sets for the Southwick Players, for which he also acted and directed.
John died in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, on 26th January 1991, survived by his wife and three children, Lorna, Susan and David.
Opened in 2016, The Skyway Gallery was the brainchild of Shoreham Community Trust trustee and local artist Danny McBride, aided by another local artist Angela Edwards, its artistic director, and Crimson Trebar, who joined the team as Curator earlier this year. The gallery has gone from strength to strength, with at least ten large exhibitions a year, which have included retrospectives, a recycling sculpture festival, lantern display, solo and group shows. The gallery has also been involved in many collaborative projects with local organisations such as Shoreham’s Wordfest, Ropetackle arts centre, Over the moon, Adur art collective, Apron and Esteem.
• Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Designs – Jon Peaty 10th – 30th September 2022 Skyway Gallery at the Shoreham Centre, 2 Pond Rd, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5WU | Open Monday – Saturday 10.00 am. – 4.00 pm | Web: www.skywaygallery.org
• Jon Peaty – Official Site
Compiled by David Peaty and a work in progress, the aim of this site is to provide a means of exploring the contribution to local and national life that one artist made in the middle part of the 20th Century