Gilroy, John

John Gilroy (1898-1985) was a successful artist, illustrator, landscape and portrait-painter whose subjects included many eminent figures and the future King Edward VIII. However, he is probably more often remembered for his advertising work for S H Benson than anything else and for the Guinness account in particular.

Gilroy graduated from the RCA in 1923 and stayed on there as a teacher, but in 1925 began a long association with Benson's advertising agency. His first important assignment was the Mustard Club campaign for Colman's of Norwich, with co-artist William Brearley and copywriters Oswald Greene and Dorothy L. Sayers. In 1928 S H Benson won the Guinness account and he produced his first known Guinness poster in 1930. He continued producing designs and posters for Guinness into the 1960s, more than fifty posters and over a hundred different press advertisements. The Guinness for Strength posters, featuring the girder carrier and wood cutter, and the zoo series, including the toucan, are probably his best-remembered works.

During the Second World War Gilroy continued to exhibit his paintings at the Royal Academy but also worked on many campaigns for the Ministry of Information, the Make-do-and-mend and Keep it under your hat campaigns, for example. Gilroy

Throughout the fifties and sixties Gilroy produced hundreds of greetings cards designs for Royle Publications and was their Art Director for a time.

Archive contents

Date range: 1920'“1960s


The collection comprises printed and published material with a few original drawings.

In 1998 The History of Advertising Trust held an exhibition about the life and work of John Gilroy at the Royal College of Art, London called Gilroy is Good for You! The research for the show generated a very useful archive in its own right and includes an extensive 35mm transparency library and catalogue of Gilroy's work.

Formats: Advertising leaflets and booklets; greetings cards; menus and menu illustrations; cuttings, prints and proofs of advertisements; prints of portraits; photographs of the artist, his subjects and his paintings; posters; colour transparencies.

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