Wyndham Payne

Illustrator & Commercial Artist

wyndham payne in Army uniform

Paul Payne’s grandfather was the celebrated illustrator and commercial artist, Wyndham Payne.

He was born in Reading in 1888 and started his working career as a salesman for Huntley & Palmer Biscuits, then one of the major employers for Reading.

He joined the Royal Berkshire Imperial Yeomanry and then the Royal Flying Corps although his poor eyesight prevented him form becoming a Pilot.

Instead, he found a natural ability as a mechanic and spent the War supervising aeroplane maintenance.

He married Dorothy Craven in 1917, and he provided an illustration for the front cover of a self-published book of her poetry (“Poems by the Fireside”).

This beautiful image of a cat in front of a fireplace was shown to Cyril Beaumont, the book and music publisher, who then commissioned many pieces from Wyndham, after he left Huntley & Palmers to become a freelance artist.

His style was joyful and somewhat frivolous and he adored mystery and toys. he was said to have been influenced by the artist Claud Lovat Fraser, and his early illustrations show an affinity with this Fraser’s style.

His years as a commercial illustrator were prolific and varied: he illustrated books, book covers and endpapers, letter heads, greetings cards, posters, cartoons, pamphlets, calendars, watercolours, painting on glass and he also dabbled in lino cuts, ceramics, paper silhouettes and cut-outs.

Sadly his eyesight worsened with glaucoma around 1937-8 and by the start of the Second Wold War, aged just 51, he had retired completely from illustration. During the War, he was assigned Squadron Leader in the Air Training Corps but was unable to execute the fine detail required for his creative pursuits.

He still drew for family, such as greetings cards, and had a few later commissions – his latest book illustration was in 1943. 

Wyndham and Dorothy settled in Sidmouth after moving around for some years after the War, and he finally died in 1974 aged 86. 

A biography and compendium of his designs were compiled into a book – Wyndham Payne Design – cowritten by Paul Payne and William Connelly.  


Here is a clip from a radio interview by Suzy Howlett on “Writers on Radio” show broadcast on Frome FM on 26/06/2020.

Paul Payne talks about his book “Wyndham Payne” written about his grandfather, the illustrator and designer.

In the film we refer to an illustrated musical manuscript of Rossini’s “La Boutique Fantastique”.

To listen to the music CLICK HERE.

To purchase a copy of the book CLICK HERE

In early 2023 I was approached by Dr Rachael Pope, a resident and ex-nurse from Lyme Regis. She had been preparing a talk on Lyme Regis hospitals for her local branch of the U3A.

She recalled some murals on the walls of the children’s ward and further research showed they were pained by Wyndham Payne in 1935. 

She contacted me to ask me about them and I had no idea! Together we were able to gain access to the building (now a nursing home) and take some photos of videos of the parts that had been protected.

This next video shows our discovery, and the one after an excerpt from her full talk.

Perspective was not a strength with Payne; instead there is a sureness in his two-dimensional design, demonstrating a skill in handling spaces between discrete objects and figures which may relate to his three-dimensional work with, for example, working models and silhouettes painted on glass, and his habit of arranging purchased ‘gubbins’ in his workroom as if in a Cabinet of Curiosities or a shop window display.

For a man born as a late Victorian but surviving until the birth of punk music Payne comes across as a survivor from much earlier times. His preference for bold primary colours, plus style and subject matter that hark back to the early Victorian and even Georgian eras, speak of someone at ease with past delights that are both child-like and, as Horace wrote, simplex munditiis.

What a joy this illustrated selection of his work has turned out to be, allowing us to appreciate, despite the glaucoma that affected him in later life, his talent for creating unique visions.



Good Reads

wyndham payne book cover

The Wind in the Willows Book Cover & illustrations

Paul has found much inspiration from his grandfather and has recreated many of his illustrations in for form of porcelain book plates and picture panels.

By tracing the illustration onto paper, Paul has beautifully captured the essence of Wyndham Payne’s work while bringing it into a new 3-dimensional plane.

Some of Wyndham’s piece also played with light and silhouette (see gallery below) and the book cover of Kenneth Williams’ ‘The Wind in the Willows” from 1927 translates amazingly onto the porcelain medium.

The copy of the book in the video is an original first edition printed in Frome by Butler & Tanner (now no longer trading).

wind in the willows illustration by wyndham payne
wind in the willows porcelain panel

Wyndham Payne’s Paintings and Illustrations

wyndham payne ceramic christmas decoration
wyndham payne ceramic christmas decoration

Wyndham Payne’s Ceramics & 3D objects

wyndham payne ceramic christmas decoration