Born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, Sykes was the son of a fireplace manufacturer. Initially he was drafted to design the ornate designs so popular in Victorian England. He studied at Sheffield School of Art, and was able to set up his own studio successfully as well as take students, both individually and in classes to supplement his income from selling his paintings. He was admitted to the Sheffield Society of Art, and in 1899 he married Sadia Elizabeth Ward.
He met Laura KNIGHT and Harold KNIGHT when they were living in Staithes prior to their move to Cornwall. With the help of a wealthy patron (who held out a guaranteed market for his work and sponsorship to travel), he moved as the Knights did to visit the Newlyn painters in 1914, and remained for the rest of his life. According to Dorey, the friend who helped him find his permanent home in Newlyn, after staying in lodgings on Paul Hill for some months, was sculptor Frank DOBSON. Other firm friends were Harold HARVEY, S J Lamorna BIRCH and Stanhope FORBES, Ernest PROCTER as well as Alfred MUNNINGS.
Unfortunately his benefactor died, and from then on the livelihood for this excellent watercolourist (never quite as popular as oil in terms of sales) became precarious. He and Sadia managed somehow though with much difficulty, and brought up a son, Melville (also a skilful painter who died young) and two daughters, Effie and Dorcie. Forbes was always encouraging to him and recommended his work to exhibitions wherever possible. Once again his reputation grew, though bringing in only a modest income.
His daughter, Dorcie SYKES, also became a well known painter in watercolour, and was to stay in the family home for the remainder of her life, despite exhibiting her paintings and prints all over the world.. He sold a painting Rhododendrons at NAG just before the Gallery discontinued the mounting of separate exhibitions for the duration of WWI. (A collection of pictures continued to be hung, and replaced as they were sold, by the artists living locally.) He exhibited at NAG in 1937, and his watercolour A River Crossing was illustrated in colour in the W H Lane Auction catalogue (March sale) 2003.
He died following a series of three strokes, on 28 October 1941, with Sadia surviving him by 20 years (d 1961). The family are now buried together in Paul Churchyard.
Painter of landscape and marine subjects in watercolour
works and access
Works include: A Harbour Scene (1921); Clearing Stones (1928); Shrimpers of the Foreshore and Fishing Boats on the Horizon; A Newlyn-caught Fish on Cobbles before the Harbour; Chums (1937); A River Crossing
Access to work: NAG Permanent Collection
NAG 1914, Summer 1921, December 1924, Spring 1925, December 1925, Spring 1926, December 1926, March 1927, Summer 1928
STISA Inaugural Show at the Porthmeor Gallery 1928
'A Century of Art in Cornwall' CCC Centennial 1889-1989, Truro, Part I
Penlee House, Penzance: 'A Village in Focus: Mousehole', 'A Village in Focus: Newlyn' 29 November 2008-14 March 2009
Sykes Exhibition, 9th-16th August 2008, The Centre, Newlyn: organised by Glyn Richards & Jeremy Drew
GI (9); L; RA; RI (8)
Cornishman 8 Dec 1926; Cornishman and Cornish Telegraph 12 Jul 1928
The Cornishman 24 & 31 Mar 1926
Dorey, Michael (1986) 'A Matter of Heart' [in] Cornish Scene (Oct/Nov issue), re-issued in revised format (booklet) as John Guttridge Sykes, A Matter of Heart (August 2008) with enclosed 'Foreword' by Glyn Richards.
Western Morning News March 1927
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn, Diary of a Gallery
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p278)
Holmes Artistic Tradition;