Roy Kraty

Assistant Director of Intelligence (Logistics) who embarked on a late and successful artistic career

Tuesday 04 February 2003 01:00
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Roy Alexander Kraty, painter and civil servant: born Bournemouth, Hampshire 2 August 1909; OBE 1968; married 1934 Dorothy Crouch (died 1993; one daughter, and one son deceased); died Harrogate, North Yorkshire 25 December 2002.

Many artists train for years, but are inept in selling their work. They could study with benefit the example of the late-starting, self-taught Roy Kraty. Kraty began painting in his late fifties, never considered himself more than a "modest and enthusiastic amateur", but soon turned himself into a sound, enterprising and commercially successful landscape artist.

He was born in 1909 in Bournemouth, to a working-class family. His grandfather, Karl Kratz, had emigrated to England from Germany in the 1850s. His son, and Roy's father, Charles, a motor engineer, changed the family name to Kraty when applying to join the British Expeditionary Force early in the First World War. It was not then comfortable to have a German surname.

Roy Kraty left school unqualified in 1926. He was good at drawing, had practised emulating the cartoons of Tom Webster in the Daily Mail and aspired to be an artist. However, this was the time of the General Strike and the beginning of a depression.

Visits to the Labour Exchange resulted in Kraty's being appointed as book-keeper of the St Albans Brick Company at £1 a week. In his spare time, he tried to launch his own inventions, such as an electric paint scraper and new trouser braces for men. By the late 1930s, he had progressed in the brick company. A raised salary enabled him to buy a car, marry his childhood sweetheart, build a house and start a family.

His fortunes were transformed by the Second World War. He rose to squadron leader in Royal Air Force Intelligence, travelled extensively and in 1944 was Mentioned in Despatches. On the formation of Winston Churchill's new Ministry of Defence, he became a founder member of the Joint Intelligence Bureau. The aim of the bureau was to see that "our intelligence at the outbreak of any future war would not be in the appalling condition in which the country found it at the outbreak of the last war".

Kraty rose to be Assistant Director of Intelligence (Logistics), responsible for offensive and defensive missile sites, intelligence on airfields, transport, terrain, ports and waterways. The Cold War overhung his time with the bureau. The build-up of the Soviet missile threat in the 1960s provided him and his small staff with "the most exciting and rewarding years of my service". His service also encompassed the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift, the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the 1962 Cuban missile confrontation. Kraty "enjoyed every moment of my daily working life", he said, travelling extensively and meeting leading military and government figures. He retired in 1973.

Kraty's artistic career burgeoned from the mid-1960s. He spent lunch hours in the National Gallery examining single elements in pictures by the Old Masters and how they were painted. In 1966, he wandered into Reeves Art Materials, made purchases and began painting with acrylics and then oils. He was encouraged to join the Stanmore Art Society and soon sold his first painting, for eight guineas.

One of Kraty's pictures was chosen for the Ministry of Defence Christmas card in 1971, winning him national press coverage, and he began getting commissions. With retirement and a move to Warwickshire in 1973, his new career flourished. No potential outlet was overlooked. He showed at the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry, Leamington Spa Art Gallery, London Guildhall, with the Country Landowners' Association, in village shows, hotels and building societies.

A move to Wetherby, Yorkshire, in 1985, presented new subjects. With "a mountain of work accumulating on our walls or in our loft, I sought new outlets", he recalled in 1996, in a privately published memoir, Some Batting and Bowling Experiences (With Bias) of a Self-Taught (Post-Retirement) Painter. Within 25 years of retirement, Kraty had sold some 1,400 pictures to buyers in Britain and extensively abroad.

David Buckman

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