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Kerry Lee Revisited: cartographer, commercial artist, socialist

For the first post of 2016 I’m delighted to return to the congenial company of artist and pictorial map-maker Kerry Lee (1902-1988). Two of Kerry’s children, John and Bronwen, and John’s wife Elizabeth have all been very generous with their time and knowledge. I am also indebted to my friend and map-trade colleague Rod Barron, who has deftly recovered information from public records which had been lost to the family. It seems there’s plenty more to say.

A sketch for a pictorial map of New York, an example of the unpublished artwork which remains with Kerry’s family
A sketch for a pictorial map of New York, an example of the unpublished artwork which remains with Kerry’s family

Kerry’s relatives were schoolmasters in East Anglia. He was named for his mother’s uncle, Kerry Rix (1851-1940), who was an estate manager at Somerleyton in Suffolk.

George Robert Rix, schoolmaster at Somerleyton, with his family, inscribed by Kerry Lee
George Robert Rix, schoolmaster at Somerleyton, with his family, inscribed by Kerry Lee
Lee with his uncle, Kerry Rix
Lee with his uncle, Kerry Rix

In the 1901 Census, as Rod has established, the Lee family are recorded as living at No.8 Cavendish Rd on the Wadham Estate in Walthamstow in Essex. Kerry’s elder brother, Donovan Henry, was then only 8 months old. His parents are William Ernest Lee (26), then a draper’s assistant and Annie Eveline Lee (nee Rix) (22). They had been married in the final quarter of 1899. Apart from their eldest son Donovan (1900-1972, known as Don), Annie’s sister, Kathleen M. Rix (20) who appears to have also been a draper’s assistant, was also living with them along with a servant, Emily Tassall, aged 14.

Kerry was actually born on 4 December 1902, reportedly in West Ham (though Rod thinks it was probably Walthamstow) and not in 1903 as I wrote in the previous post. (The birth was probably registered in the first quarter of 1903.)

By the time of the 1911 Census, the family have moved to No.16 West Bank, Stamford Hill, and William Ernest is now an Educational Representative for an International Correspondence School. Kerry is now 8 years old and listed as having been born in Essex. Annie Eveline’s sister is still living with them, now a Correspondence Clerk and Student (Christian Movement). Two other guests are also staying with them at this time.

His family suspect that a rift between Kerry’s parents precipitated a spell in Switzerland for both Kerry and Don, if only because it seems odd to have sent the boys away at such a young age. According to family lore the brothers stayed with Swiss explorer and long rider Aimé Félix Tschiffely (1895-1954). In the 1920s Tschiffely undertook an epic three year ride between Buenos Aires and Washington DC. However, if the Lee boys stayed with him in the early 1910s, he must still have been in his teens; in his early twenties he moved to England, where during a relatively brief stay he became a teacher, a prize fighter and a professional footballer. Evidence for any direct link between Tschiffely and the Lee family has unfortunately been lost. One of the surviving postcards written to Kerry’s mother (dated 1913) is from an H.H.Tschiffely, and it seems more likely that they stayed with the family rather than A.F. Tschiffely in particular. It is perhaps also worth noting that Kerry wrote to his mother (rather than both parents), and her address changed during his stay in Switzerland (one postcard is redirected).

Kerry Lee Neuveville postcards (1)

Postcards sent to Kerry’s mother and an aunt from Neuveville, Switzerland
Postcards sent to Kerry’s mother and an aunt from Neuveville, Switzerland

According to Kerry’s family, his mother was ‘dissatisfied with her husband’s achievements’. William Ernest and Annie Eveline divorced in 1922, with Kerry’s father listed as petitioner and Martin Harvey as correspondent. Kerry seems to have taken his mother’s part, and evidently got on well with his step-father. He apparently hated his father’s name, Ernest, and the London Gazette for 15 May 1928 records his formal change of name by deed poll, from Kerry Ernest Lee to Kerry Harvey-Lee. Harvey was dropped from his signature on his artwork, but this seems to have been for brevity.

Kerry’s stepfather was Martin William Harvey. Rod believes that he may have been born around 1880. Harvey and Kerry’s mother Annie Eveline (or Evelyn) can be found at various addresses in North and Central London from 1923 onwards, initially at Cholmley Lodge, Cholmley Gardens, Fortune Green Rd, West Hampstead, which was a new mansion block development. They then move on to fairly well-to-do West End addresses in Clarges St (W1); Berkeley Court (W1); and Hawkins House, Dolphin Square (SW1) during the early 1930’s and through to 1939.

As Rod suggests, it perhaps belies the family story of Harvey being wiped out by the 1929 crash and Great Depression, though these latter addresses do all seem to have been relatively modest flats in large mansion blocks so they perhaps reflect his financially reduced circumstances. It’s hard to disagree with John, who remarked that he found the series of addresses ‘a little sad… as though they lived in smart locations but were in fact homeless’.

Harvey did indeed emigrate, perhaps after his wife’s death. He died in South Africa in May 1949, at the Whitehouse Hotel, Strand Street, Cape Town. His stepson Donovan was granted probate in London in November 1949; Harvey’s effects were listed at just £288,10s.

Rod suggests that he may be the M. W. Harvey of Golders Green who set up the small building & decorating company of Don Kerry Ltd (with the intriguing possibility that he named it after his new stepchildren, Don and Kerry) in wartime London in August 1916. It may also be that he was the owner of “Domiciles Ltd” (est.1917) of West Green, West Hampstead, with whom Don, Kerry’s elder brother, trained as a civil engineer, qualifying in 1926. (Don later worked on many of the Cunard liners, and according to his family worked on the development of the Mulberry Harbour during World War II.)

Kerry Lee’s first wife was Enid Kathleen, my correspondent John and an elder sister (now deceased) were the children of that marriage. They lived in Moor Park, Hertfordshire, and then moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb. After John’s mother died Kerry married Mary Frances and they had four daughters, Bronwen being the eldest.

The house in Moor Park, possibly built by Kerry himself. On the reverse he has written: “St. Christopher’s, Moor Park. Built by KL. Architect: W.E. Masters (also of Berkeley Court, Baker Street)”
The house in Moor Park, possibly built by Kerry himself. On the reverse he has written: “St. Christopher’s, Moor Park. Built by KL. Architect: W.E. Masters (also of Berkeley Court, Baker Street)”

The picture which emerges, then, is that Kerry was born into a solidly respectable Edwardian family in the foothills of the middle classes. He had no bohemian or artistic relations that we know of, but his own upbringing was somewhat unconventional. His parents’ separation and divorce may have been considered mildly scandalous by contemporaries, compounded if (vide the formation of ‘Don Kerry Ltd’, above) the children and their mother had established a household with Martin Harvey some years before her divorce. There was sufficient money to send the boys to Switzerland and to allow Kerry to go to art school. He made frequent references in later life to his time as an art student in Paris, and there’s no reason to doubt that he was there as a young man.

We have a tantalising glimpse of Kerry’s desire to take his artistic ambitions further in his early twenties. The Western Daily Press (10 December 1925) reports on an art exhibition held at The Oak Studio, 1 Unity Street, College Green, Bristol: a joint exhibition of pictures by a local Bristol woman called S. S. Fox (a specialist in the painting of trees and faces), by Kerry Lee and by Donald Hughes. The pictures had previously been shown in London. Hughes was an artist and poet, a member of the Bristol Savages (a West Country version of the London Savage Club) and one of Bristol’s leading auctioneers & estate agents. He and Kerry had travelled together in the Savoie region of France, and many of the works on display had been painted in and around Annecy.

However, it was some years before Kerry was able to return to his chosen career. By the late 1920s he had a family to support, and as we have seen described himself as ‘estate agent’ on his marriage certificate. He is also known to have collaborated with his stepfather, working as a draughtsman. At some point in the mid 1930s, through necessity or choice, he embarked on a second career as a commercial artist.

Blandford Studio occupied the space above the stables for United Dairies on Blandford Street, near the corner where it crosses Baker Street, with a small flat at the top of the building which Kerry rented out. Kerry established ‘Associated Artists’ there with the intention of sharing costs, although apparently the area of Kerry’s own studio shrank until he was sharing a tiny space with a Polish architect. His children remember it as a friendly community, though most of the other artists were firmly in advertising. One of them drew ‘OK Saucey boy’; another went on to draw Dan Dare for the Eagle (John notes: “I am not sure whether the man drawing Dan Dare for the Eagle comic, was Frank Hampson himself the creator of Dan Dare, or one of his assistants. But I do remember that whoever he was, he was very keen on fortune telling through astrology”). Leslie Cusden wrote car advertisements, thoroughly researched and often highly technical. It is inconceivable that Kerry Lee was unaware of other artists working in the field of pictorial maps, such as MacDonald Gill, but there is no evidence that he knew any of them personally.

Blandford Studio survived the war. The United Dairies’ stablemaster sat on the roof fielding incendiary bombs away from his horses. From February 1941 Kerry was attached to Air Intelligence, preparing cut-away drawings of enemy aircraft, as discussed in the previous post. Four of these are reproduced in Donald Nijboer’s book, “Graphic War” (Boston Mills/Firefly, 2011). Kerry had returned to Baker Street by 1946, where he spent six months working on his London – Bastion of Liberty poster.

The next twenty years were perhaps Kerry’s most productive. He was able to turn his hand to anything: decorative telegram forms, Christmas cards, even designs for Carr’s biscuit tins and other publicity material.

Attractions of London, for Carr’s of Carlisle
Attractions of London, for Carr’s of Carlisle

He designed a number of board games, such as ‘Taxi!’ (where the picture cards depict different fares and the tips they were likely to give), ‘Eye-Witness’ (‘a game of memory and detection’) and ‘Zoo Quest’ (‘based on David Attenborough’s television programme’), all marketed by Ariel Games.

Taxi!
Taxi!

But it seems to have been the maps which meant the most. Beneath this map of Liverpool is the tongue-in-cheek imprint “by the famous cartographer Kerry Lee”.

Kerry Lee's Liverpool
Kerry Lee’s Liverpool

John recalls “walking round London with him one time and his telling me always to look up at the upper stories and roofs as well as the fronts of the buildings to get a feel of their true character”, almost certainly part of his process of preparation before making a map. Rod notes that the Tourist Association poster maps – London, Oxford, Stratford and Cambridge – were part of a concerted campaign to promote Britain abroad, especially in the United States, where many of these posters were distributed, marketed and sold through leading American stores, generating much needed foreign revenue and, it was hoped, encouraging increased numbers of US tourists to come to Britain in the immediate post-war period.

Prospectus of Pictorial Maps
Prospectus of Pictorial Maps

A 1950s Prospectus of Pictorial Maps, published by Pictorial Maps Ltd, Blandford Studio (clearly Kerry on his own) reveals that Kerry was undertaking his own marketing and distribution too:

“A series of historical maps which are profuse in historical, architectural and literary detail have been produced to publicise Britain throughout the world… a limited supply of these publications is now available to the public and we would particularly invite enquiries from firms in Britain who have agents and customers overseas.”

By writing directly to Blandford Studio, one could purchase the quad royal version of London for one guinea, and the royal-sized versions of London and the other cities for between 10/6 and 15 shillings.

Having survived the Blitz, Blandford Studio was demolished in the early 1960s. Kerry was offered alternative space, but found it too expensive. He was already in his sixties, but at a time when many people would be thinking of retirement he found work in the local Post Office depot, near where he lived by this time, in Hemel Hemsptead. His artistic talents were soon recognised, and he found himself drawing safety posters. He continued to draw in retirement. A cousin was a Quaker, and he designed a poster for the local Quaker Meeting House.

The Quakers in Hemel Hempstead, 1979
The Quakers in Hemel Hempstead, 1979

He was a committed socialist and a supporter of CND. He visited Russia circa 1961 to attend a peace conference, and to John’s occasional dismay was always ready to enter into a heated political debate at the bus stop.

St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, painted by Kerry Lee
St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, painted by Kerry Lee
CND Christmas card
CND Christmas card

Most of the time he confined himself to drawing cards such as the one above, but John recalls that on one occasion he was dangled over the railway bridge at Hemel Hempstead to paint ‘ban the bomb’ above the arch. The schoolteachers and other pillars of the community holding his legs felt he was taking far too long over the lettering – they didn’t want to be caught!

Kerry Lee in the 1980s. He commented to his son: “If you see a gentleman wearing a beret in Paris, ten to one he’s an Englishman.”
Kerry Lee in the 1980s. He commented to his son: “If you see a gentleman wearing a beret in Paris, ten to one he’s an Englishman.”

 


If you missed part 1 of our Kerry Lee special, catch up here

One thought on “Kerry Lee Revisited: cartographer, commercial artist, socialist

  1. I have a Blandford’s Pictorial map of Oxford which was greatly loved by my mother. Now that we live in Oxford it is much enjoyed by visitors. So nice to learn some of the artists background.
    Many thanks

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