Tyneside artist John Thomas Young Gilroy painted royalty and left his mark on popular culture in one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history.
Over a period of 35 years he created a succession of posters for Guinness, featuring a cast of animal and human characters,
Today a painting by his father, John William Gilroy, of a boy set against a backdrop of allotments in Benwell in Newcastle will be sold by city auctioneers Anderson & Garland.
The painting, estimated at £200-£350, carries the inscription “the artist’s son”.
Although Mr Gilroy had several children, the painting has sparked speculation that it could be of the Guinness genius as a boy.
With a spectacular future ahead as an artist, it is likely that the young Gilroy accompanied his father on his painting trips.
“He created the classic Guinness imagery and it is intriguing to think that this could be a portrait of him as a boy on Tyneside,” said John Anderson, picture specialist at Anderson & Garland.
John William Gilroy, who died in 1944, was a landscape, marine and portrait artist who set up a practice in Newcastle and in the 1920s moved to Whitley Bay.
John Thomas Young Gilroy was born in Crawhall Terrace, Newcastle, and gained a scholarship to Armstrong College art school at what is now Newcastle University.
In 1916 he enlisted in the Royal Artillery and served in France and Palestine. He went on to paint the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, Princess Margaret, Lord Mountbatten, Edward Heath, and Winston Churchill.
In 1925 Gilroy joined the advertising agency S. H. Benson Ltd, working on major accounts including Bovril, Rowntrees and Colman’s mustard.
In 1928 Bensons secured a contract with the Irish brewing firm Guinness and Gilroy set out to demonstrate the product message of strength and goodness.
His poster characters included the girder-carrying Guinness-drinking workman and a string of animal characters such as a sea-lion, ostrich, kangaroo, and toucan.
So distinctive was his work that he became the first British designer to produce a poster which did not require words. This was the Guinness coronation poster in 1953 which featured a jolly zoo keeper holding up a bench of animals.
In his wartime work for the Ministry of Information he contributed to the Dig for victory, Careless talk costs lives, and Make do and mend campaigns. He was awarded an honorary degree by Newcastle University in 1975.
He died in 1985.