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W J Steggles, 1908-1997.
Born into modest surroundings in east London in 1908, he showed early promise as an artist. When the family moved to Lower Swainswick near Bath, he met Frederick Sheppard, a local artist, teacher and pianist, who was the first person to seriously influence him in his artistic pursuits. The family returned to the London area and he attended Valentines School in Ilford and left there in 1922 to join Furness Withy & Co Ltd, where he stayed for his entire working life.
He started to attend art classes at the Bethnal Green Men's Institute with his younger brother Harold where he met John Cooper, the founder of the East London Group in 1925. Steggles became a leading member of the group which was formed by young artists who attended the Bethnal Green Men's Institute, and later moved to Bow and Bromley Evening Institute. The group was comprised of mainly local working men and women a number of whom were from very humble backgrounds, some of whom could not always afford the materials with which to produce their art. In such cases it was not uncommon for John Cooper himself to provide the necessary funds or materials for his students to continue on their chosen path. Recognition of their work soon followed in the form of exhibitions at the Institute followed in 1929 by an exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery sponsored by Sir Joseph Duveen and a Summer salon at The Redfern in 1929. There then followed a long succession of annual shows at The Lefevre Galleries which ran until the late thirties.
Among the group, Walter Steggles was one of the most highly regarded members along with his brother Harold, Elwin Hawthorne, William Coldstream, Richard Sickert and Henry Silk. In addition to the Group exhibitions, he also had work shown at The Redfern, The Tate, The Whitechapel Gallery, Burlington Galleries, Agnews and provincial shows both at home and abroad. In a mixed British and French Artists Exhibition at Lefevre in the early thirties, he and his brother Harold, Elwin Hawthorne, Henry Silk, Richard Sickert, and John Cooper exhibited alongside Paul Cezanne, Edouard Vuillard, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Paul Gaugin, Maurice Utrillo, Pablo Picasso and Auguste Renoir and plus other British artists outside the group such as R O Dunlop, William Staite-Murray, Alfred Sisley, Duncan Grant and Samuel J Peploe.
Shortly before the war he was commissioned by Shell-Mex BP to produce two images for their "You can be sure of Shell" poster campaign series. He also studied as an engraver and etcher but this was cut short by the down-turn in the trade and subsequently by the war. In later life his work turned more towards landscape and away from the East London urban views for which the group were famous.
Information provded by Alan Waltham