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Rowntree, Kenneth

(1915 – 1997)

Bombed Buildings and Red Bus in the Snow

Watercolour

Signed, dated and inscribed with title 

l.l.: Kenneth Rowntree/Red Bus/1940

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
The Artist’s Studio

This work closely relates in style and format to the images that Kenneth Rowntree produced for the ‘Recording Britain’ scheme. 

Recording Britain was the brainchild of Sir Kenneth Clark, who saw it as an extension of the Official War Artist scheme. By choosing watercolour painting as the medium of record, Clark hoped that the scheme would also help to preserve this characteristic English art form.

Recording Britain was intended to boost national morale by celebrating the country’s natural beauty and architectural heritage, but it was also a memorial to the war effort itself. The earliest pictures show the landscapes of southern England which were under immediate threat from bomb damage and invasion; in due course the remit was expanded to include those landscapes, buildings and ways of life that were vulnerable to the destructive forces of progress’ ‚Äì urban expansion, housing developments, road-building and so on.

Funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust, the project ran until 1943 and some of the country’s finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Barbara Jones, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Over 1,500 works were eventually produced, and the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949. This was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.

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THE ARTIST

Rowntree, Kenneth

1915 – 1997

Painter, illustrator, artist in collage and murals, draughtsman and teacher, born in Scarborough, Yorkshire. He studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing, Oxford, under Albert Rutherston, 1934’35, and at the Slade under Randolph Schwabe. During World War II he participated in the Pilgrim Trust Recording Britain project and was an Official War Artist. He had his first one-man exhibition at Leicester Galleries in 1946; other one-man shows followed at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Zwemmer Gallery, New Art Centre, and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a retrospective at Hatton Gallery there in 1980. In 1949 he became a tutor at RCA, a post he held until 1958. In 1959 he became Professor of Fine Arts, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, succeeding Lawrence Gowing; he held the position until 1980. In 1992 a touring retrospective was organinsed, starting in Newtown. Group shows included NEAC, AIA and RSW. He became a member of the Society of Mural Painters in 1943, taught mural painting at the Royal College of Art for 10 years from 1948, and received a Ford Foundation Grant to visit America in 1959. In 1948 he illustrated A Prospect of Wales. Murals completed include those for Barclay School, Stevenage, 1946, RMS Orsova and Iberia, 1954, and the British Pavilion at Brussels International Exhibition in 1958. In 1951 he painted murals for the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion at the Festival of Britain. Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum and WAC are among many public owners of his work. Rowntree’s pictures reflect the genial and witty nature of the artist, usually being landscapes and townscapes in which the elements have a toy-like neatness and familiar notations are employed. In the post-war years he also painted a considerable number of abstract (and semi-abstract) works. His work is sometimes signed with just his initials. He lived at Corbridge, Northumberland.

MORE PICTURES BY ARTIST

Coffee Pot, Cup, Table: The Pyrenees, circa 1970
£5,500.00