Introducing The John Holdcroft Collection

27th June 2024

Burstow & Hewett are proud to be holding The John Holdcroft Collection auction on the 27th July at The Abbey Auction Gallery in Battle, East Sussex.

John Hambleton Holdcroft was born in Bristol in 1926 and here is a biography about the artist written by his family. His father owned a shoe shop in the city, where the family lived until it was destroyed by a flying bomb during the war. John was educated at the Bristol Cathedral School where he discovered a talent for drawing and creating cartoon series. Called up in 1944, he later held a commission with The Black Watch seeing in service in Germany during post war reconstruction. Four years as a solider was followed by a spell in the Carthusian Monastery at Cowfold Surrey where he discerned his artistic vocation and returned to Bristol to study art at The West England College of Art.


During his time at art college he was president of the Students union for two consecutive years, achieved the national design diploma and the Edward Houlton Advertising scholarship. In 1952 the latter took him to London to the studios of Colman Prentis & Varley in Grosvenor Street, but John found London demanding and claustrophobic and he felt he must find clean air and open skies so decided he would live on the channel island of Sark. There he met an ex-RAF fighter pilot and together they bought a boat. For 3 years they successfully worked the tides as offshore fishermen, until the sudden death of his fishing partner.

As well as living off the sea and land, John continued to draw and paint. He sketched and illustrated island scenes and characters; he also set up a small gallery on the island. After 5 years on Sark, John moved on to the island of Alderney. He became a local BBC West Country correspondent, and likewise for the now defunct News Chronicle. He continued his development as a painter, spending a long summer in Norway, working with the director of Oslo Museum on producing a series of large pen drawings of the city. In 1960 he returned to London, once more to the world of advertising, at Mather & Crowther, where he became one of a select group of artists formed by the late Stanhope Shelton (a doyen of the advertising world) to transform the creative approach to TV storyboard design.


John Holdcroft Banner

After 5 years in the London advertising world, John again felt drawn to the sea, applied for a teaching post at Plymouth College of Art & Design and found himself appointed as lecturer in Graphic Design. He combined this post with that if Graphic Designer for Westward TV. In 1967 John moved to St Leonard’s to take up the post of Head of Graphic Design at Hastings College until retiring as Deputy Head of Art & Design after 15 years. During this time he was elected as Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers.

With more time to develop his own painting and to travel, a chance meeting with the President of the Portuguese bank resulted in Madeire becoming John’s focus of artistic attention and living for the next 6 years. Along with producing work for the various branches of the bank, John undertook 6 solo exhibitions in Maderia, Lisbon & Oporto and lived near Lison for several years and was featured in a documentary made by Portuguese Television about him and his work.

John was a member of the British Humanist Association, living in Fairlight with his wife and fellow artist Valerie Olsen until his death in 2014. Always fascinated and inspired by astronomy and cosmology John was still painting in his late 80’s developing a series of colourful abstracts inspired by the Hubble telescope images.

A remarkably skilled illustrator John had an ability to capture the essence of a scene or character and impart to the viewer a sense of knowing and being in the moment in a place – whether historic, or in the now. With boundless curiosity John’s subjects range from local to remote & present day to the distant past.

Johns work has been shown in London with The Royal Water Colour Society, The Affordable Art Fair & The Royal British Artists Galleries as well as locally at Rye Society of Arts, Stable Gallery, Conquest Hospital and Hastings Museum.


The catalogue for The John Holdcroft Collection auction will be released on soon!


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