The Thetford-born artist behind iconic interwar adverts
- Credit: Leslie Sayer courtesy of Ian Sayer
Before he lost an eye serving on the home front during the Second World War, Leslie Sayer worked as a commercial artist in Norwich.
And now his son Ian has shared his father’s story and some of his wonderful works from a century ago.
Born on February 25, 1901 at Thetford, Leslie had a knack for motor engines as a young man. He worked in Norwich garages in the early to mid 1920s.
For a while Leslie lived on College Road in Norwich, at the same time as Edith Cavell and her parents - before she decided to return to Brussels in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War.
However Leslie was also a talented drawer and painter. Towards the end of the 1920s he worked as a commercial artist in Norwich. He produced cartoons, painted portraits and landscapes as well as advertisements.
In 1931 he married Lilly Adele Sayer (nee Rayna). She was one of four daughters of Carlo Rayna from Milan who owned and operated the Café Royal Restaurant in London Street from 1895 to his death in 1931. One of Ian’s uncles took the restaurant on until it closed just before the Second World War.
As the Great Depression took hold, many people struggled to find work in the 1930s.
- 1 Police fine 39 second-homers and day-trippers in resort crackdown
- 2 Builder wants zero affordable homes in development – after promising 13
- 3 Road closed after police incident in Norwich
- 4 Seafront Bath House homes for sale again after price drop
- 5 A 42-bedroom hotel with ballroom and set in three acres for sale
- 6 Drama as police plane circles villages for missing person
- 7 A11 closure as lorries with huge loads get stuck at roadworks
- 8 Rogue trader jailed after taking thousands of pounds from customers
- 9 More than 40pc of people in Norfolk have now had their first Covid jab
- 10 Convicted sex offender exposed himself to woman
Leslie relocated to the south of England and found work in a printers where he was again employed as a commercial artist in New Malden, Surrey.
In 1933 he returned to Norwich and became a freelance commercial artist until 1936 when he went back to the south of England and worked as a coach driver.
When the Second World War started Leslie transported bomber crews to their bases in the south of England. In 1943 he joined the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and served with them until 1945, during which time he lost an eye.
Despite this setback, Leslie kept at his art.
“I’ve always seen that as a major achievement,” said Ian who was born in 1945.
“He was still drawing pictures and doing paintings, water colours and charcoals – not for commercial reasons but because he loved doing it.
“He went to the Isleworth Polytechnic in Middlesex to attend art classes in the early 1950s.”
“It was just for fun really. It was the same place that Freddie Mercury went to about 10 years later. He lived on the next road to us,” explained Ian.
After the Second World War ended Leslie worked again as a coach driver and was later employed in various capacities in motor engineering and transport.
Leslie died on the August 4, 1981.
All images and adverts supplied by Ian Sayer from his personal family collection.