Back to Members

Mervyn Peake
(1911 — 1968)


Mervyn Peake was an English artist, poet, illustrator and author of works such as the well-known trilogy, Gormenghast. Born in the hill town of Kuling, Kiang-Hsi Province, he spent most of his childhood in China. He moved to Surrey in 1923, where his father set up a medical practice. He briefly attended the Croydon School of Art before enrolling in the Royal Academy in 1929. He exhibited his work on several occasions in London and Paris with The Sark Group until his first solo exhibition in the Calmann Gallery in London in 1938. He also taught life drawing at the Westminster School of Art from 1935 to 1939. The years following this, in particular from 1943 until 1948, were some of the most productive of his career. In 1945 he was commissioned by The Leader magazine to visit Germany as a war artist where he visited the concentration camp at Belsen. He found the experience profoundly harrowing and produced several drawings of dying prisoners in the camp. He also produced some of his most acclaimed illustrations for works such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, alongside producing many original drawings and paintings.

Peake moved back to Sark in 1946 until 1950, when he and his family moved to Kent, and then his childhood home of Wallington in Surrey in 1952. Throughout this time he wrote and illustrated and continued to do so until the early 1960s. The artist died in 1968. Much of his work became more widely known and appreciated after his death. His works are now included in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum and The National Archives.