John Strickland Goodall was born in Heacham, Norfolk on 7 June 1908. He was the son of a famous heart specialist whose boasted seven generations of medics, and who himself pioneered the electrocardiogram. Goodall was educated at a preparatory school in Norfolk and at Harrow (1922-6), where he spent every available moment drawing and acquired a reputation for his portraits of the masters. Somewhat reluctantly, his father allowed him to study under two artist friends, both survivors of the Victorian age, Sir Arthur Cope and John Watson Nicol. As a result, he appeared highly conservative even to his teachers at the Royal Academy Schools, where he studied between 1925 and 1929.
There he met Margaret Nicol, niece of his former mentor, and his future wife. On finishing his studies, he began to contribute illustrations to magazines, including the Bystander and the Radio Times, for which he regularly produced drawings. During the Second World War, Goodall served in the Royal Norfolk Regiment in India, and was attached latterly to the Intelligence Corps in Burma. He held his first exhibition in 1943, at the Government School of Art in Calcutta. After the war, he and his wife settled near Tisbury, in Wiltshire, and remained there for the rest of their lives. He was asked to paint the Duchess of Kent and her family at Coppins, a commission which led to other conversation groups, including the theatrical dynasty, the Redgraves. But he was better known for Victorian pastiche and landscapes. He exhibited atLondon societies and dealers, including the Royal Academy and the Christopher Wood Gallery, in the provinces and abroad. When Margaret fell ill in 1970, Goodall nursed her, and so turned to book illustration as a form of art he could complete at home. He worked mainly for children and often employed Victorian themes and settings. As Christopher Wood remarked in his obituary of Goodall, ‘The remarkable feature of his books is that they were all completely designed and illustrated by him, and none of them contained a single word beyond the title-page’ (Independent, 7 June 1996). He produced his first two children’s books in 1954, but then waited fourteen years before producing The Adventures of Paddy Pork, which was chosen for the 1969 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. This success encouraged him to concentrate his energies in this field. His The Surprise Picnic was listed in the New York Times’s choice of the best-illustrated children’s books of 1977, and Paddy Goes Travelling was similarly chosen to represent the year 1982. After the death of his wife in 1989, Goodall was again able to travel and paint where he liked. He produced views of France, Portugal and his home county of Wiltshire. Christopher Wood wrote that these late local landscapes ‘were masterly essays in the impressionist style, and show him in his true colours’, less a Pre-Raphaelite than an English Boudin. He died in Shaftsbury, Dorset on 2 June 1996.