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Commercial and advertising

Colour illustration of a bearded man with a plumed hat surrounded by six women

'Henry VIII and his Six Wives', Painted in 1979 for a Falcon Games jigsaw.


The popularity of jigsaw puzzles surged in the mid-1970s amidst a widespread renaissance in hobbies and collecting. The themes represented on jigsaws were fuelled by an interest in heritage and nostalgia for the past.

Arrow Games (1965-87) and its break-away company Falcon Games (1976-96) were the UK’s leading manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles, offering subjects appealing to collectors. Kirby undertook frequent commissions for both companies throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. Typical subjects included sports, adventure, animal, military and historical themes, frequently in sets of three or four pictures to encourage buyers to collect the series.

Kirby’s background in commercial and film advertising gave him a practised eye, and his artwork for the puzzles was eye-catching, employing the vivid colour palette that characterised his science fiction and fantasy work. At fees of between £130 and £500, dependent upon the complexity of the painting, the jigsaw commissions provided a relatively good source of income.

Some of his commissions are shown in this section, reproduced with the permission of the Trustees of the Josh Kirby Estate.


In the early part of his career, working on a freelance basis to commissions from commercial agencies, Kirby provided the artwork for use in a variety of general advertisements.

These included ads for food and engineering companies, vegetable seed producers (for packets) and bodies including the Milk Marketing Board.

The two adverts in this section were produced for The Consolidated Zinc Corporation Ltd, and are reproduced with the permission of the Trustees of the Josh Kirby Estate.