John Santry

Born: 1910

Also Known as Terence John Santry.

Painter, illustrator and cartoonist, was born in Sydney on 19 December 1910 and grew up in working class Pyrmont where he went to a convent school which although it was strict, allowed the children to draw on Friday afternoons.
His first job on leaving school was at Paramount Pictures in Sydney, where he emptied the jars of water used by the studio artists to clean their brushes. This led to him enrolling as a part-time student at the Royal Art Society under Dattilo Rubboand Sydney Long and at East Sydney Technical College. He subsequently became a commercial artist at Paramount Pictures before becoming a black-and-white artist on Truth . This was followed by a short stint in advertising after which he freelanced. He contributed to Labour Daily in the 1930s when he was married with a small child. A second child was born during an extended stay in England in the 1930s, where he went to study at Westminster School, London, under Bernard Mehninsky and Mark Gertler. He shared a studio with William DobellDonald Friend and Arthur Murch. Other Australian fellow students included John Passmore and *Jack Carington Smith*who once called him ‘the outstanding draughtsman of our era’. While in the UK he worked under Arthur Murch on the Australian Wool Pavilion Exhibition in Glasgow, along with Donald Friend , William Dobell , Fred Coventry and Rosalind Edkins.

Santry returned to Australia shortly before the outbreak of WWII and joined Australian Consolidated Press as a ‘creative artist’, drawing illustrations and cartoons for the Daily Telegraph and the Australian Women’s Weekly . After an incident when he and the other cartoonists all refused to draw an anti-strike cartoon he decided to resume freelancing, which he combined with part-time teaching at East Sydney Technical College. { Fifty years says he taught Creative Art at Sydney Technical College.}

He was honorary secretary of the Society of Artists, which prided itself on representing professional artists and illustrators of a progressive bent. The president was his close friend Douglas Dundas who was head teacher at the National Art School, East Sydney Technical College. Santry taught drawing to Architecture students at Sydney University with Lloyd Rees and Roland Wakelin , then at University of New South Wales with Hector Gilliland , John Olsen and Leonard Hessing . He was the artist for the popular Chesty Bond strip and at night taught WEA classes in the suburbs.
After the War he joined with Lloyd Rees, Roland Wakelin and others to paint around the lower north shores of Sydney Harbour, forming a collective they called the Norwood Group. In the 1950s a young discontented boy, Brett Whiteley, tagged along with the older men, absorbing their knowledge. Santry remembered the young man as ‘a nice boy,very talented’.

Santry always combined cartooning and illustrating with painting post-impressionist landscapes and more realist figure studies, mainly of Sydney people and places especially working-class areas like Glebe, Surry Hills, etc.
For many years his work was not noticed by the critics, who assumed he was only an illustrator. However in 1984 the Sydney dealer gallery Hamer-Mathew held a well received retrospective of his paintings, drawings and etchings, with a catalogue introduction by Joanna Mendelssohn. At the exhibition opening Lloyd Rees compared Santry’s studies of working class life on the streets – furtive greyhound trainers, barefoot children and street flower sellers – to the work of Courbet. The following year he held an even more substantial exhibition at the Art Exchange in Melbourne.

Written by Joan Kerr and Joanna Mendelssohn