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Sunday, April 08, 2012

John Griffiths (1926-2012)

John Griffiths, a regular cover artist for Penguin Books in the 1960s and 1970s, died on 13 March 2012, aged 85. Griffiths, born in London on 2 August 1926, worked in a drawing office and advertising agency, where he met his wife-to-be, Barbara Sparks. After marrying in 1950 he attended a working men's college, which led to a foundation course at Camberwell and then to the Royal College of Art; he remained at the RCA as a junior tutor. He also produced illustrations for the BBC's Time and Tune and covers for Penguin Books.

Like many Penguin artists, Griffiths was paired up with certain authors, amongst them Eric Linklater and John Wyndham; it was Griffiths who visualised Wyndham's Triffids as stumpy-legged bulbs with a whip-like flagellum. He also illustrated Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud (1960) and John Christopher's The Death of Grass (1963)

Griffiths also illustrated Penguin's Progress, Sir Allen Lane's history of Penguin published in 1960 to celebrate the company's 25th anniversary.

Griffith lived in Teston, Kent, where he spent most of his career as a freelance illustrator, his most regular client being a New Zealand-based educational publisher. During slack periods he returned to teaching at Goldsmiths, St Martin's School of Art, Medway College of Design and Maidstone College of Art. He eventually retired and became a carer to his ailing wife, who died in 2004. Two years before his death, Griffiths went to live with his daughter in south-west France.

Obituary: The Guardian (3 April 2012).



  1. The Day of the Triffids cover brought memories flooding back. The first Penguin book I ever owned!

  2. I remember the Time and Tune series from school music lessons & then as a teacher I used the series in primary education for many years as well as a series called Rhythm and Melody.