Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Kenneth Rowntree (1915-1997)   BIOGRAPHY

The British Restaurant at Acton, Middlesex, 1942
Framed (ref: 5558)

Signed and inscribed “Preliminary sketch of portion of murals for the British Restaurant at All Saints Church, Acton. (Scale…3/4” = 1ft)”,
Watercolour, gouache and pencil on paper
78.9 x 56.6 cm (31 x 22 1/4 in.)


Provenance: The artist’s family.

Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 102. 

Literature: Art for Everybody – Britain Advances (British Council publication, 1943, photograph of mural on front cover); John Milner, Kenneth Rowntree, Lund Humphries, 2002, pp.28-30; Kenneth Rowntree, A Centenary Exhibition, Moore-Gwyn Fine Art and Liss Llewellyn Fine Art, 2015, Cat. 44, p.85;  
WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 111, page 154.

Kenneth Rowntree had a natural flair for design, as is clearly demonstrated by many of his still extant early paintings, so it is not surprising that this talent was given early scope in his home town of Scarborough, where his father, owner of a department store, played a prominent role in local civic life. However, apart from the mention of a mural in a local children’s library details are scant and no records are known to exist. His first documented mural commission, dating from 1942, was for the British Restaurant located in the disused church of All Saints, Acton.

The effect is heraldic: fully modeled realism would have been less effective. Rowntree’s sense of rhythm and pattern came to the fore......As a muralist Rowntree understood art for public spaces - it called for a maximum legibility from a distance, simplification and an instantly recognisable catalogue of images, John Milner, Kenneth Rowntree, Lund Humphries).

Peyton Skipwith, Kenneth Rowntree, A Centenary, 2015.

Kenneth Rowntree (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.

See all works by Kenneth Rowntree