FITTON, James RA 1899-1982. Artist. Lived at 10 (subsequently 10/11) Pond Cottages for over fifty years. Born in Oldham, the son of a mill worker and trades union official, Fitton attended evening classes at Manchester Art School whilst working in a textile company. When his father’s work brought him to Peckham, the family moved to Woodbine Cottage, Dulwich Village. James lived for a short period in Downing Street, as a guest of a Labour cabinet minister and family friend. By now working freelance, he painted a mural for an Ideal Home Exhibition, designed for a golf club, and became an illustrator for a monthly magazine.
He met his future wife Peggy whilst they were fellow evening-students at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Requiring a more secure income, he joined an advertising agency where he remained for fifty years, ending as Art Director. Amongst his most notable commercial work were posters for London Transport and the Ministry of Food. On marrying in 1928, he and Peggy moved to Pond Cottages where they had two children, Judith and Tim.
Fitton held strong anti-fascist views, becoming a founder member of the Artists’ International Association and contributor of illustrations and cartoons to Left Review. From 1929 he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, often painting members of his family or interiors of his Dulwich home. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1954, was a Trustee of the British Museum, and a Governor of Dulwich College, with Honorary Surveyorship of the Picture Gallery collection from 1970 until his death. James Fitton was the layman’s idea of an artist: bearded, flamboyant, articulate, and with great humour that often showed itself in his work.