Norman Janes was a wide-ranging painter and printmaker, who had a particular affinity with the London scene, from the busyness of railway stations and Thames embankments to the tranquil spots around his Hampstead home. Norman Janes was born in 18 Grange Road, Egham, Surrey, on 19 May 1892, into a Methodist family, and was the younger son of the draper, Arthur T Janes, and his wife, Ada (née Croxson). He studied commercial art at the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Art, during the years 1909-14, while working as a freelance advertising designer.
Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Janes served as a Corporal with the London Irish Rifles, and later as a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Irish Regiment. Experiencing action in France, he was wounded at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. It was probably at this time that he met Dr Oliver Gotch, medical officer of the Queen Alexandra Hospital Home for disabled soldiers in Roehampton. They became good friends, and in later years went on sketching tours of Southern England and Northern France. At the end of the war, Janes studied drawing and painting under Henry Tonks at the Slade School of Fine Art, alongside his future wife, Barbara Greg (1919-22).
He then learned the skills of etching and engraving under W P Robins, in evening classes at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, (1922-23), and under Sir Frank Short and Malcolm Osborne at the Royal College of Art (1923-24). Printmaking would prove an important focus of his early career.
From 1921, Janes exhibited with many of the leading London societies, including the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society of Marine Artists, the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours, the Society of Wood Engravers, the International Society, the New English Art Club. He also showed work in the provinces and abroad. He held a solo show at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London, in 1932. He was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1922, and a full member in 1938. In 1925, Janes married Barbara Greg at her home in Cheshire, and they settled in Hampstead, living at 2 Branch Hill from 1929 until 1961. Both working as illustrators, they sometimes collaborated, as in a series of engravings that they produced for the Aeolian Company as decorations for piano rolls. They would have one son and two daughters. He helped support the family by teaching etching and wood engraving at Hornsey School of Art (1928-60) and the Slade School (1936-50).
On the outbreak of the Second World War, Janes applied to become an official war artist, and, while he did not do so, the Imperial War Museum would purchase some of his works. He also contributed some drawings to the Recording Britain scheme, including two of Hampstead. Between 1941 and 1945, he served in the Royal Air Force, including three years in the Middle East (during which time he was mentioned in despatches).
At the end of the war, in 1945, Janes held a second solo show at the Beaux Arts Gallery, and began to serve as Honorary Secretary of the RE (until 1962). He was elected to the Society of Wood Engravers (1952) and, working increasingly as a painter, to the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours (ARWS 1957, RWS 1966). Further solo shows were held in Middlesborough (1962) and Clifton (1975).
Living in his later years at 70 Canonbury Park South, Norman Janes died on 23 September 1980. His wife and children survived him.
His work is represented in the collection of the Government Art Collection and numerous public collections, including the British Museum, the Imperial War Museums, the National Maritime Museum, Southwark Heritage and the V&A.
Further reading: Elizabeth Grice, Norman Janes: Wood Engravings and the Man, Stonehouse: Evergreen Press, 2014