Twosome - Study of Tigers

Nationality, Life:

American, 1920 - 2009




Gouache, signed


11 x 16 in.

John Berry can be regarded as the logical temporary extension of the 19th Century Painters. His importance as a great realist painter is instantly recognisable by the knowledgeable viewer, who enters with him a world they both know and revere.


Born in London in 1920, John Berry, having displayed an early artistic talent, entered the Hammersmith School of Art in 1934, where he studied under Alfred Egerton Cooper and William Dring. His main interests at that time were figure paintings and etchings. At 19 John won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools.


In 1939 at the outbreak of the war, John cut short his art studies and joined the RAF. It was soon noted that his talents as an artist should not go unheeded and Air Marshall Tedder, AOC, put him forward as a war artist.


From 1941-1944, John worked with the 8th Army in North Africa and Egypt painting battle scenes. Some of these wartime paintings including ’25 Pounder in action at Alamein’ were exhibited at the National Gallery during the war before being moved to the Imperial War Museum where they now hang. During this period he spent a lot of time in Cairo from where he was able to gather material for some of his other paintings. John began to paint scenes of the past which were witty and frivolous, genre paintings set in the 17th century or in his own period, and pictures of the Moslem world. With the aid of sketches, photographs and studio accessories he reconstructed, with a remarkable sense of monumental composition and fine colouring, scenes of oriental smokers, chess players, Moslems at prayer, cafes, dancers, interiors and palaces.


After the war he moved to the joint services staff college (Amersham, Bucks) and during his time there painted the portraits of many high ranking staff who passed through. After completing his military service, John travelled, painting portraits, including a commissioned portrait of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi and the President of the United Arab Emirates while under the auspices of Harrods as their main portrait painter. He worked successfully as a commercial artist during the 1950’s and in fact created the now famous design of the Esso Petroleum “Tiger”. Since then he has worked for many big publishing companies including Ladybird books, Panther, Pan Fortina and Readers Digest.


Since the mid 90’s John has worked with galleries in the United States, producing portraits of Native American Indians. Through these contacts he was given the commission to paint George Bush Snr as a young naval aviator. This portrait stands in a central position in the foyer of the George Bush Gallery of the Pacific War.