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Monday, January 26, 2009

Harry Zelinski

One of the names that kept cropping up as I was looking through Everybody's and John Bull was Zelinski. Not a common name and definitely one worth some investigating, I thought. And here's the results, bolstered by a handy little editorial featurette and photograph I stumbled across in the pages of John Bull.

Harry Zelinski was born Harris S. Zelinski, his birth registered in Rochford, Essex, in 1922. He once crewed a boat that came third in a race at Burnham-on-Crouch but would later claim not to remember what sort of boat it was. He served during the war as a pilot and met his wife, Mary, whilst both were serving in the air force. They had two daughters, Diana and Pauline.

Described as "a ruddy-faced, relaxed man," Zelinski was living in an attractive Georgian house at 5 Priory Crescent, Lewes, in the mid-1950s. He would later move to Hollands, Warren Lane, Friston near East Dean in East Sussex [1959/62] and thence to various addresses in Seaford, East Sussex: 31 Beacon Road [1963], Green Walk [1964/66], 59 Dane Road, [1968/75] and Taras, Marine Parade [1978]. He subsequently moved to Corfe Castle, Dorset [1981/84] where, unfortunately, the trail grows cold. Mary Zelinski died in Dorset in 1997 but I've found no further sign of her husband.

Zelinski appears to have been a prolific and popular illustrator with various magazines, where he was noted for his exotic use of flat, rich colours . He claimed to be naturally lazy, "particularly in the autumn" when he would rather while away the hours in a armchair with a pile of records for his gramaphone. While working, he always had music playing in the background—anything from Bach to Eartha Kitt. He was a happy painter, working wherever and whenever he wanted, but had no great sympathy for art for art's sake. "If I really had something vital to say to the world, I should like to be able to say it with music."

Since no great statements were made by Zelinski through music, here's a little gallery of his artwork which I (and I'm sure he would appreciate the gesture) shall leave to speak for itself.

(* Artwork © IPC Media.)


Norman Boyd said...

Rochford in Essex, you say? Down the road a few miles? NEVER! The work I saw by him in these magazines implied to me a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker at least! How incredible Steve, you keep coming up with brilliant facts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this, it has been very interesting for me and my family, I have not seen the pictures before. Harry is my grandfather. I can add that he is well and has kept up the painting although he now spends more time writing and lazing around of course, currently living Exeter.

larry viner said...

Hi Steve,

Just came across your excellent site, but have been a fan of your books for some time!!

I am a huge fan of illustration, as you will see from my website, and one of my great loves, was the magazine John Bull.

A few years ago, I bought the title and the rights to all the Artwork from IPC, but have very little information about many of the great artists, so I was very pleased to discover, about ten minutes ago, your piece about Zelinski. If you could put me in touch with any of the artists or their families I would be greatly appreciative…

If you fancy a visit to the Advertising Archives, or working on some book projects give me a call, you would always be welcome. We work with every major publisher and newspaper in the UK,

Best regards,

Larry Viner.

Larry Viner
0207 435 6540
45 Lyndale Avenue
London NW2 2QB

dw said...

I was in art school in Southend-on-Sea in the 1930s and there was a Harry Zelinski in our class. I don't know why I have remembered his name all these years as I have lived my life in Italy, France, Switzerland and now finally in California but was surprised when looking at some art illustrators I came across his name and wondered if he was the boy who did art in our school? It is certainly odd to find a name from the past in this world of millions. I didn't go into art but became a writer (a lazy one). If it is the Harry Zelinski who was at our school thumbs up, Harry. I was chubby little Dorothy Bunting and I wonder if you ever remembered my name.

larry viner said...

I am sorry to say that I have just heard from one of Harry Zelinski's daughters,the sad news that Harry passed away last June.One of the great British Illustrators.......

Steve said...

I'm sorry to hear that he died.I've not found any obituaries for him. Does anyone know if there was anything published in any of the local (Exeter area) papers?

Anthony Dalton said...

1945 I met Harry at Southend art school. I was at the end of my 3yr course when H arrived to do his rehab course after military service & enjoyed good times with him & his delightful Mary (+ tiny baby). Harry went to the prestigeous Carlton Artists, London where I joined him around 1948. Later we both went went freelance using Artists Partners as our Agent. I last visited the Zelinski's when they lived at Lewes, E. Sussex. At Carlton Artists I was (in my late teens) fortunate to work in the company of the top illustrators such as Harry, Ray Bailey, Tanet Jones et al.

Steve said...


Thanks very much for your comments. I must admit, of the names you mention I only recognise Ray Bailey as he did some comics work for Girl. Any memories of Ray you'd like to share?

Anonymous said...

When I was 14, I met Ray Bailey whilst he was on holiday in Dorset.
My parents became friendly with him and his family and we spent some time together on that and a couple of subsequent holidays. He told us at the time that he was the artist who drew "Kitty Hawke" on the front page spread of the "Girl" comic.
He was an amazing artist. I remember him drawing the town of Bridport (which he later painted) in minutes whilst we sat in his car. He gave us a sketch pad and fine point Bic pen to attempt the same drawing, but our efforts (my brother, his daughter and me) were abysmal.
I would love to know what happened to him and his family as I have such fond memories of those holidays.

Steve said...

Can you recall the names of Ray's wife and children? Perhaps from that detail I can do a little digging. Unfortunately, I don't think any biographical info. has ever been published on him.

Anonymous said...

His wife's name was Errol and his daughter's name was Beth which was short for Elizabeth Anne. We kept in touch until about 1964 when he moved to Shipley in Yorkshire.

Steve said...

I'm not having much luck. The best I can manage so far is that I believe Ray Bailey may have died in 2003. There's a marriage to an Elizabeth A. Richardson in Lewes, Sussex, in 1933, which may be him; there's a birth of an Elizabeth A. Bailey in Surrey in 1936, which may be the daughter, but I'm struggling to confirm any links . . . any more information you can pass on would be very useful. If you're uncomfortable about making details public, drop me a line directly (my e-mail address [watch out for the tricky spelling] can be found below the photo top left).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your research - I am sure it is not the daughter because she was of a similar age to my brother and myself in 1961 when I was 14 - You may be right about his wife if Errol (she was of Welsh origin) was used as a name by which she was known to Ray.
Much obliged for your interest

Steve said...

I was sent off in the wrong direction by your comment: "He told us at the time that he was the artist who drew "Kitty Hawke" on the front page spread of the "Girl" comic," by which I thought you meant he was drawing "Kitty Hawke" at the time [i.e. 1951], when you were 14.

His wife's name wasn't "Errol" but "Eryl"... Gwennie Eryl Bailey. She died in 1999, shortly before Ray, who I believe died in 2003. Elizabeth was born in 1949.

Bob said...

Sorry to have misled you - indeed that was a long time before 1961 when he was doing "Kitty Hawke".
It was my misinterpretation of the spelling which was the stumbling block with Eryl.
I now know far more about them than I did previously.

Steve said...

No need to apologise, Bob. I, too, now know more about Bailey than I did before, although it would be nice if we knew even more.