Rowland Suddaby was born in Kimberworth, Yorkshire in 1912, and after winning a scholarship studied at the Sheffield College of Art from 1926 to 1930, while still working in the steel industry. In 1931, aged 19, he moved to London to attend the Royal College of Art, eventually finding work ornamenting titles for black and white films with a firm in Wardour Street, the then centre of the British film industry.
After getting married, still very young, and struggling to make a living, his work was noticed by the art collector Rex Nan Kivell (1898-1977). He consequently had a successful show at the Wertheim Gallery, London, in 1935 and a series of shows at the Redfern Gallery, London, from 1936. From 1943 he also exhibited at the Leger Gallery, London and at the New English Arts Club. In 1940 he was one of the artists chosen to produce work for the Recording Britain project. In 1939 he moved with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Joanna, to Suffolk, settling near Sudbury to become curator of Gainsborough’s House Museum.
After the war, until his death, Suddaby remained an active member of the local artistic community, co-founding in 1946 the Colchester Arts Society and exhibiting in the Society’s first exhibition at Colchester Castle in 1946. Suddaby’s work was acquired by many prominent collectors and public institutions, including the V&A.