Born in London in 1902, John Strevens attended classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic and later at Heatherley’s. He was however largely self-taught, copying Victorian paintings at the Guildhall then earning his living in illustraton studios in the newspaper publishing centre around Fleet Street, until the outbreak of the Second World War.
1943 marked a turning point in John Strevens’s career with his first one-man show off Bond Street and by 1947 paintings such as The Three Princesses, depicting his daughters Jo, Vicky and Ginny, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy earned him public acclaim. From then on he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Paris Salon.
Not long after the death of his first wife, the novelist Jane Cooper Strevens, he married a young native of Barcelona, Julia Marzo. In 1957 he set off with his three daughters, and his new wife and baby daughter Bridget on the first of several trips across France to Spain which were to inspire subjects for more London exhibitions. 1961 saw his first trip to the USA and the beginning of an enthusiastic reception from American art collectors.
Leaving a Kensington flat and studio for a quieter house and garden in Loughton, Essex, (near family roots) in 1963, John Strevens continued to support his family painting pictures destined for the popular British print market as well as portraits and colourful romantic fantasies of women, children and flowers.
A new life-long working relationship began in the late 1960s when the art dealer Kurt E Schon of New Orleans tracked the artist down after seeing The Woman in Black in the International Directory of Art. Well into his 80s, John Strevens would travel to the US to meet collectors and paint portrait commissions from life. But his book-lined and music-filled studio at the end of the garden of his home in Loughton, Essex continued to provide a refuge and his main source of his inspiration until the end of his life.
See also: John Strevens, The Man and his Works,