John Harris Valda was born in Marylebone, London, in 1874, the son of John Harris Valda senior, a Victorian painter who had studied with John Millais and painted Edward VII's portrait, and his Scottish wife Amelia Vernon. The family appears to have spent time in Italy and Austria.
He opened his own art school in 1895, aged only 21, in collaboration with Ernest George Entwistle, which he later claimed was the first art school in Britain to teach magazine illustration. It also taught fashion, advertising, poster and catalogue illustration. The partnership between Valda and Entwistle was dissolved in 1912.
In 1901 he was living with Edwin Drew, a journalist, poet and tutor, and his wife Annie, in St. Pancras, and working as a black and white artist. In 1911 his younger brother Salvator was living with the same family, but John had married Olive Perry and was head of his own household. Until 1905 he worked for magazines like Pearson's, Lady's Realm, Girl's Realm and English Illustrated. After that he started painting book covers, mainly for Chatto and Windus.
After the First World War he joined the Amalgamated Press as a staff artist, drawing illustrations for their boys' papers, including Champion (1923-), Union Jack (1924-), Detective Weekly, Young Britain, Sport and Adventure, Dick Turpin, The Rocket, Buffalo Bill, The Boy's Friend Library, The Bullseye, The Thriller Library and Film Picture Stories. He was the first artist to draw western hero Buck Jones in Film Fun in 1933. He also drew for Hulton Press' Boy's Magazine, Pearson's Scout and Cassell's Chums.
He worked until the early 1940s, and died at his home in Croydon in 1942. His wife had died before him in 1936.
- Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, p. 171
- J. H. Valda: Artist at Look and Learn