Leslie Hurry was born in London, the son of a St John’s Wood undertaker. Preferring not to go into the family business, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools and spent his twenties searching for his own artistic style. In 1939, unfit for military service and deeply unsettled by the war, he was befriended by Grace Sholto Douglas, an elderly patron of arts and whose portrait by Hurry is in the Tate Collection. Robert Helpmann, the dancer and choreographer, had seen Hurry’s work in a London exhibition, and in 1942 commissioned him to produce designs for a production of Hamlet to be staged at Sadler’s Wells Ballet; this was the start of a long and distinguished association with the theatre. In 1947 he collaborated with Michael Benthall on a production of Turandot at Covent Garden. His work was marked by a fluency of line and meticulous detail, leaning towards fantasy with a strong vein of the macabre.