Cecil Kennedy – Magnolia Soulangeana

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Cecil Kennedy (British, 1905–1997)
Magnolia Soulangeana
Oil on canvas
31 x 27 Inches (Framed)
23.5 x 19.5 Inches (Unframed)
Signed (lower right)
Provenance: Private collection, United Kingdom

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Born in Leyton, England Cecil Kennedy is best remembered for his minutely detailed depictions of flowers, additionally he also worked as a portraitist. His greatest works are admired for their exquisite detail and artful compositions, and many of these were produced during the 1960’s. His wife Winifred created the brilliant flower arrangements, usually in a vase from their collection of mid-eighteenth century Waterford vases, which further inspired his work.

Kennedy was born into a large artistic Victorian family. He was the youngest of thirteen children. His grandfather was an artist who had lived in France, sketched with Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875) and exchanged drawings with him. His father was a landscape painter and four of his brothers were artists.  In the early thirties he met and married Winifred Aves. She became his inspiration and for sixty-four years they worked together as a creative team.

In the Second World War he was called up and fought in the British Army in Europe. He was in Antwerp during the winter of 1944 where he sought out and befriended Flemish painters. It was a time for reflection, and studying Flemish and Dutch still life paintings in their natural setting brought about a definite change in his painting style. He maintained contact with Flemish artists up to his death.

Cecil Kennedy had many important patrons. Queen Mary bought his work, as did the Duke of Windsor and the Astors. Queen Mary is quoted as saying “When I see Cecil Kennedy’s pictures I can smell the flowers and hear the hum of the bees”.  Furthermore she noticed he had painted a ladybird on a flower stem. Thereafter all his paintings contained a ladybird.

Kennedy had an important exhibiting career. Before the age of twenty-four he showed at both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s, he exhibited regularly with the Fine Art Society, who were keen advocates of his work. Additionally he was awarded a silver medal at the Paris Salon in 1956 and a gold medal in 1970. 

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