Laurence Scarfe (1914-1993)

Laurence Scarfe University of BrightonScarfe worked in wide range of visual disciplines: book and magazine illustration, poster and wallpaper design, mural painting, fine art and ceramic decoration. He taught at the Central School of Art from 1945 to 1970, followed by a decade at Brighton Polytechnic, lecturing on the history of illustration and graphic design. His work is represented in significant collections including the Tate Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, the Government Art Collection and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

After studying at Shipley School of Art, Scarfe went on to study mural painting at the Royal College of Art (1933-37). He carried out mural work for the British Pavilion at the Paris 1937 Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, the Books & Printing section at the Britain Can Make It Exhibition (1946) and the British Industries Fair (1948). Of major importance were his murals for the Dome of Discovery and the Regatta Restaurant at the Festival of Britain’s South Bank site (1951). Other murals included those for the P & O’s liners Orcades and Oriana in the 1950s.

Scarfe was also a well-known illustrator for magazines for the Radio Times and The Listener and Far and Wide. Perhaps of most note were his contributions to The Saturday Book (1941-75), a highly visual annual artistic and cultural miscellany, as well as a period as its art editor. He also wrote and illustrated his own books, including Alphabets: an Introductory Treatise (1954), as well as those of others such as Leonard Russell’s Primary Pie Pocket Miscellany, (1943), Alec Waugh’s These I Would Choose: A Personal Anthology with Drawings (1948), A Record of Shell’s Contribution to Aviation in the Second World War (1949), and The International Wine and Food Society’s Guide to the Wines of Burgundy (1968).

Poster and advertising design was another field in which Scarfe excelled, designing for the Curwen Press, the Arts Council, including Pleasant Occasions (1951), the BBC, the GPO, ICI, the Central Office of Information, and London Transport (1939-69), including Bethnal Green Museum (1984). He received a number of ceramic commissions from a number of manufacturers, including the Dolphin pattern (1965) for Carter’s Tiles.

Scarfe was a member of the Society of Mural Painters and a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artist and Designers, and his papers from 1935 to 1983 are lodged in the V&A’s Archive of Art & Design.