John Berry was born on June 9, 1920, in Hammersmith, London, England. His father left him, his mother, and his sister when Berry was five years old. John was educated locally then he moved on in 1934 to the Hammersmith College of Art. In 1939, he earned a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy but his studies were interrupted by the Second World War. John volunteered in 1940 for the R.A.F. (Royal Air Force). With them, he served in the Middle East and the Western Desert. He spent much time in Cairo, Egypt where he gathered inspiration for some of his later paintings. At a holding unit, John Berry finally got his shot: he offered to produce a poster promoting the national day of prayer. When Air Marshal Arthur Tedder learned of his artwork, Berry was moved to the 8th Army as a War Artist.
John returned to the UK and found work with Major James Riddell, a wartime acquaintance. While John produced drawings in a number of books by Riddell, his primary income came from advertising. In the 1950s, he began working for Ladybird books and illustrated thirty-five books in the 1960s and 70s.
During his career, he discovered Edward Curtis’ photographs of Native Americans and became awestruck by the strength and power that each portrait held. He studied them in-depth and became an expert in depicting the Native American lifestyle and portraits.
He was a prolific portrait artist as well, painting Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke Edinburgh, as well as any individual that would drop off a photograph.
In 1951, Berry married June East. Together they had two daughters and three sons. Following June’s death in 1986, Berry married his second wife Jessie Showell in 1989.
A few of Berry’s paintings have been exhibited at the National Gallery. They now reside in the Imperial War Museum. In 2004, he and Marty Aitchison were exhibited in the Simon Finch Gallery for their Ladybird work. John Berry died on December 10, 2009.