Modern British Art by Eric Kennington: Portrait Head of Jean Clark, circa 1924–5 |





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Eric Kennington:
Portrait Head of Jean Clark, circa 1924–5

Framed (ref: 609)

Plaster, with a green patina, height: 12 in. (32 cm.), base 9 x 4 in. (23.5 x 12 cm.)


Provenance: from the personal collection of Jean and Cosmo Clark; thence by descent

Julia Rhys, Jean Clark’s daughter, recalls that Kennington, who lived on Chiswick Mall, near to the Clarks in St Peter’s Square, was drawn to Jean as a sitter because her forehead was similar to that of T.E. Lawrence: ‘Eric was planning a head of Lawrence of Arabia. Eric needed some “practice” (or this is what I remember being told) and my mother’s brow reminded him of Lawrence’s. I suppose this was about the time when my father made some illustrations for the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I do now wonder how [the plaster] survived all the moves of my Second World War childhood – I remember it being in my parents’ studios pre- and post-war; it was not on view 1940–4: some things were stored in Eric Kennington’s barn during the war. Anyway my parents really treasured it’ (Julia Rhys, letter to Paul Liss, 20 April 2004).

The painters Jean and Cosmo Clark were life-long friends of Eric Kennington (Cosmo and Eric were childhood neighbours and during the First World War both served with the Middlesex Regiment, to which Kennington was attached as an Official War Artist).

Of this ‘striking and powerful portrait head’, Kennington expert Dr Jonathan Black writes:‘Justly famed for his incisive pastel portraits of British soldiers, in the early 1920s Kennington produced a number of portrait heads of female sitters in plaster (for example of his wife Edith Celandine Cecil, 1922–3) and in bronze (for example Aubretia Ouvaroff, 1923–4).The portrait head of Jean Clark, who married Cosmo in 1924, suggests Kennington’s continuing interest in the distinctive “door-knocker” hairstyle of the early 1920s which he had explored three years previously in two pastel portraits of Gwendolyn Herbert. Shortly after completing the head of Jean Clark, Kennington began work on one of his finest pieces of portrait sculpture – a bronze head of T.E. Lawrence’ (Dr Jonathan Black, letter to Paul Liss, 9 February 2007).

We are grateful to Dr Jonathan Black and Julia Rhys for assistance.

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