The Face of Courage

Portraits of the British at War

1940-45, by Eric Kennington (1888-1960).

Free Art Exhibition – 10th June to May 2012

The Royal Air Force Museum London is proud to announce the re-opening of its Art Gallery to the public on Friday 10th June with the installation of an exhibition of portraits by renowned wartime artist Eric Kennington. The guest curator of the exhibition is the Senior Research Fellow in History of Art at Kingston University, Jonathan Black, who has mounted two other shows about Kennington in the last decade.

For much of his distinguished career, Kennington was counted amongst the ranks of exceptional portraitists such as: Hans Holbein the Younger; Albrecht Dürer; Franz Hals; Van Gogh and Augustus John. Many of his artistic contemporaries rated him as the finest draughtsman of his day, while he enjoyed the admiration of prominent public figures such as Winston Churchill; George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence.

The exhibition will present about three dozen works covering all of the Armed Services, the Auxiliary Services, London Transport and some notable civilians. Pictures have been loaned by the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, the National Army Museum, the Tate, the National Maritime Museum, the Ministry of Defence and by Kennington’s family and other private lenders and art dealers.

Kennington was among a handful of British artists who distinguished themselves as official war artists in both World Wars. His portraits were widely hailed not only as works of art, but also as capturing the indomitable spirit of British and Allied Servicemen in the struggle for victory.

This exhibition, the first to focus specifically on his Second World War Art, seeks to re-assess Kennington’s significant contribution to British War Art and to acknowledge his undoubted standing as one of the great British portraitists of the Twentieth Century. In a ‘People’s War’ he produced unforgettable images of ordinary men and women who displayed extraordinary courage and resilience under exceptional circumstances.

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