Obituary: Cecil Kennedy

Cecil Kennedy, painter: born London 4 February 1905; married 1933 Winifred Aves (one son); died St Albans, Hertfordshire 12 December 1997.

Once considered one of the lesser genres, still-life painting has in recent years been elevated to its rightful status as a complex and thoughtful, as well as aesthetically pleasing, form. How we portray and perceive the simple objects in our midst tells a great deal about the age.

In the 17th century, the golden age of tulipomania and still-life painting, Dutch merchants would invest their entire fortune on a tulip bulb. Flower painting as such became a highly prized form, memorialising these ephemeral wonders.

Building upon this grand tradition of the Old Master still-life, Cecil Kennedy was one of the foremost flower painters of the 20th century. He blended the technical accuracy of a botanist with a distinctively modern use of colour and atmospheric lighting, making the form all his own.

The Kennedy family offered an encouraging and talented artistic milieu; Cecil's grandfather, his father and four of his uncles were painters. His grandfather was a landscapist who befriended the Barbizon painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. Later Kennedy shared a creative and emotional relationship with his wife Winifred Aves. She created many of the floral arrangements he painted. The couple were avid collectors of antique clocks and furniture and mid-18th-century Waterford vases, the latter of which appear in many of the paintings.

Kennedy was profoundly affected by the time he spent in Antwerp during the Second World War while serving with the British Army. It was then that he began to emulate the extraordinary balance of meticulous technique and exuberant coloration which has been championed within the Flemish School since Peter Paul Rubens. His acquaintance with Old Masters in European museums was combined with close friendships with contemporary Flemish artists.

From the age of 24 Kennedy exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy, and later at the Royal Academy in London, the Paris Salon, and with eminent private societies and dealers. He achieved not only critical acclaim but was awarded a silver medal in 1956 and a gold medal in 1970 at the Paris Salon. He also showed at the Fine Art Society from the 1950s through to the 1970s. His many private patrons included Queen Mary, the Duke of Windsor and the Astors.

Cecil Kennedy had a great knowledge of a variety of plants and their range of compositional and colouristic appeal. He portrayed both the most exotic hybrids, such as snakehead irises, and the most hardy common species, including grasses, wildflowers and fruits. He often created quartets of pictures in which he carefully selected blooms particular to each season.

In some works, Kennedy sought exuberant complexity through a spectrum of chromatic hues and different floral types reminiscent of the voluptuous works of Jan Van Huysum (1682- 1749) and Rachel Ruysch (1664-1750). He also experimented with the expressive possibilities of all-white arrangements.

In compositions of several blooms of a single flower type he combined the scrutiny of the botanist, comparing different exemplars of a single species, with the symbolic expression of the humanist, offering insights into mortality and beauty.

These works often focus on species whose names have particular symbolic import, most notably in the paintings which celebrate the roses Innocence, Mme Butterfly and Peace. The Peace rose, "the rose of the century" was named to commemorate the end of the Second World War.

Kennedy's eyesight began to deteriorate in the late Eighties and he took the difficult decision to stop painting. Nonetheless, he was recently celebrated in a retrospective of contemporary flower painting, "Three Flower Painters", held at the Richard Green Gallery in 1997. Green characterised him as the most exquisitely detailed and artful flower painter of his generation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

£24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Store Sales Executive

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Sales Executive ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn