Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Mervyn Peake (1911 - 1968)   BIOGRAPHY

Glass-blowers producing cathode-ray tubes for radar use, 1943
Framed (ref: 2605)



20 1/4 x 27 in. (51.5 x 68.5 cm)


In 1943, the War Artists’ Advisory Committee commissioned Peake to paint the glass-blowers in the factory of Chance Brothers in Birmingham. The painting shows the glass-blowers gathering molten glass as part of the production of cathode-ray oscillation tubes; Chance Brothers was the only company in Britain that had developed the technique of blowing this complex shape, producing 7,000 tubes every week. Peake was fascinated by the manufacturing process and the balletic skills of the work force.This work is closely related to Peake’s drawing Glass-blowers ‘Gathering’ from the Furnace, 1943 (ImperialWar Museum, IWM ART LD 2851).

Invalided out of military service, Peake joined the Design, Poster and Visualising Group at the Ministry of Information in 1942, to work on a series of propaganda illustrations, The Horrors ofWar. During the war, his first two volumes of poetry were published and he started writing the first book of the Gormenghast trilogy, Titus Groan, for which he is best known today.

Mervyn Peake (1911 - 1968)

Author, poet, artist, illustrator and teacher, born in Kuling, China. He was the husband of the artist Maeve Gilmore and father of painter Fabian Peake. he was educated at Tientsin Grammar School, Eltham College and Royal Academy Schools, where he won the Hacker Prize, 1931. After two years in an artists' colony Peake taught life drawing at Westminster School of Art where he met Gilmore, marrying her in 1937. During Army service in World War II had a nervous breakdown, then was for two years attached to the Minisrty of Information. Was appointed a war artist, then in 1946 returned to live on the tiny Channel Island of Sark for three happy years. Taught at Central School of Art, but eventually had to give this up, as he had Parkinson's disease. Published Titus Groan, 1946, Gormenghast, 1950, and Titus Alone, 1959, all set in a fantasy world. He illustrated Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark, 1941, the Alice books, 1946-54, and Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1943, his own books including The Craft of the Lead Pencil, 1946. Peake's work was widely exhibited, including RA; in 1991 there was a joint show of his and Gilmore's work at Littlehampton Museum; in 2000, Chris Beetles Ltd exhibited pictures, including production drawings from the new BBC2 production of Gormenghast, in 2001 work from the family archive, including artwork from Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and Peake's own Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor, 1939, and Letters from a Lost Uncle, 1948, reflecting Peake's love of the bizarre. Died at Burcot, Berkshire, and like his wife was buried at Burpham, Sussex. A Mervyn Peake Society was formed in 1975.

See all works by Mervyn Peake