Also in this section…?

Biographical details


27 Nov 1928: born Ronald William Kirby at 58 Argo Road, Waterloo (at that date this was in the sub-district of Crosby, County of Lancaster), Liverpool, to Charles William and Ellen (nee Marsh) Kirby. Father's occupation at the time of birth: ship owner's freight clerk. Kirby's parents ran a grocery shop. Kirby lived at this address throughout his period at Liverpool's School of Art.

1935/36, aged 7: decided to be an artist (drawing a butterfly is first thing he recalls doing) and made a trade sign, 'KIRBY - ARTIST'.

[as a child]: holidayed in North Wales with Auntie Jess.

1939/1940-42, aged 11-14: during (first part of) WW2, his school was evacuated. Kirby went to live with a miner's family in the Black Mountains, South Wales (banks of the River Tawe); had his schooling in a church hall at Abercrave.

7 Jan 1943, aged 14: registered at the Junior School of Liverpool City School of Art, Gambier Terrace, just over a month after his 14th birthday (more on Kirby's life at Liverpool Art School).

1943-44: student in the Junior School at Liverpool City School of Art (part of the Regional College of Art); accepted in by the Principal, Henry Huggill; studied under Charles Gardiner.

1943, aged 14: Union of Lancashire & Cheshire Institutes examination: Junior Industrial Art Course (Part I) (subjects included English; Drawing, Design & Colour; Typography).

1944, aged 15: Union of Lancashire & Cheshire Institutes examination: Junior Industrial Art Course (Part II) (subjects included English; Drawing, Design & Colour; Book Illustration; Calculations).

Then, as his studies progressed: Lettering under Alan Tankard, Antique drawing under Robert Timmis, Life drawing under Alfred Wiffen, Lithography with Francis Cope, History of Art and Architecture, Also tutored by Martin Bell, George Jardine and Arthur Ballard. He gained the nickname 'Josh' at the Art School for his traditional, old master style of portraiture (so called after the artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1723-92).

NB: Kirby's mother did not include him when national registration (Sept 1939) accompanied the outbreak of war for fear of conscription: he therefore lived without a ration book initially. He remained at the Art School throughout the 1940s whilst many of his contemporaries, including Ted Atkinson, underwent National Service.

1944-45, aged 15–16: Lancashire & Cheshire Certificate in Drawing (this was like a Foundation year between the Junior and Senior Art Schools).

1945-46, aged 16-17: Intermediate Certificate in Arts & Crafts II (the Certificate in Drawing was renamed to this).

1946-47, aged, 17–18: National Diploma in Design (Painting) III

1947-48, aged 18-19: National Diploma in Design (Painting) IV

1948-49, aged 19-20: Illustration III. Spent almost a year in the college's Lithography Dept with Francis Cope doing lithography and photo-litho colour work before leaving Liverpool for London.

1948: Josh met the Liverpool-born life model June Furlong in his last year at art school. She remained a lifelong friend and modelled for Kirby on several occasions.

1949, aged 20: Kirby left Liverpool School of Art.

c. 1950, aged 21-22: moved to London but travelled regularly to Wivenhoe, Essex, to visit his art school contemporaries, Ted Atkinson and Roy Cross. Lived briefly above a cobbler's in Marylebone Lane. Initially worked at Le Bon Studio, London (a general commercial advertising company) as a figure artist.

1950, aged 21-22: commissioned to paint Alderman Joseph Jackson Cleary, Lord Mayor of Liverpool. Returned temporarily to the city to undertake this commission, but ultimately decided against portraiture as a career. At this time, June Furlong recalls him joking he should be called 'Josh Kirby, MP: Mayor Painter.'

1950, aged 22-23: returned to London to work in film poster studio. Kirby said he stayed 'a few years'. Produced a lot of 'quads' (film poster format) between 1951-1957 (this was probably the work he did for and Downton's and Pulford's).

Probably some time between 1951-54: also during this early period he worked for a film company (as yet unidentified) in Paris, illustrating film posters. Kirby stated he wished to 'combine explorative easel painting with a film poster career'. He stayed in France for up to a year.

1950s, aged c. 22 onwards: attended evening life-drawing classes at St Martins School of Art whilst working for the film poster studio; also attended classes at the Central School of Art and went to private life classes.

c.1954/56, aged c. 25-26: Kirby was offered a studio at Bushey, Hertfordshire (in a group of two rows built by the renowned Victorian artist, Hubert von Herkomer), so he returned to London and became freelance. The bigger studio enabled him to paint 'large-scale paintings of a flamboyant kind' in the tradition of Picasso and Matisse. Also, undertook work for Panther books, including romances and westerns.

1955, aged 26-27: Kirby's first cover for Authentic Science Fiction Monthly magazine (issue no. 61).

Mid-1950s: same time as Bushey Studio, Kirby living at 16 Poyntz Road, Battersea (a converted corner shop). He did his smaller paintings in his studio there. In the upstairs flat, Nell Dunn wrote 'Up the Junction'.

1956 onwards, aged 27/28 onwards: working under name of 'Adash' (or A-) for Authentic Magazine.

1963 aged 34-35: Pulford Publicity (Film Posters) freelance work recorded in account books.

1965: married, gave up Bushey studio and moved to The Old Rectory, Shelfanger, nr. Diss, Norfolk.

1970, aged 41-42: work seen in exhibition of Science Fiction Art at Portal Gallery, London, by Donald A. Wollheim, an American sci-fi editor, leading to commissions for covers from Ace Books and subsequently, Daw Books.

1972, (to 1987): Feref Associates (Film Posters) freelance work recorded in accounts books.

1979, aged 50/51: voted best professional artist at Science Fiction World Convention in Brighton.

1979/80, aged 50/52: approached by American publishers Schanes & Schanes to produce a limited edition portfolio.

1980. aged 51/52: Schanes & Schanes publish 'Voyage of the Ayeguy'.

1982, (probably) aged 53/54: Anglia TV interview Kirby as part of 'Folio' programme.

1982-87: Kirby carried out conservation work, including cleaning and varnishing, on a number of historic paintings in the collection of Lloyds of London (he studied painting conservation under the conservator George Fenyo).

1983, aged 54/55: commissioned by Corgi to paint the cover for Terry Pratchett's 'The Colour of Magic' (1984).

1986: exhibited in Hammer Gallery, Berlin (major exhibition).

1988, aged 59/60: exhibited at Albert Dock, Liverpool (solo show, organised by June Furlong). Crowds queued ???? for the exhibition.

1996, aged 67: exhibited large solo show at Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead.

1996, aged 67/68: received British Fantasy Award for Professional Artist. Last Discworld painting, for cover of David Langford's second Discworld Quizbook (The Wyrdest Link, published 2002)

23 Oct 2001, aged 72: died at home in Shelfanger, nr. Diss, Norfolk.