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First retrospective exhibition for Kenneth Rowntree since his death opens at Pallant House Gallery
Kenneth Rowntree, Walled Vegetable Garden, Sussex, 1940, watercolour ©The Artist's Estate, courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art/Moore-Gwyn Fine Art.

CHICHESTER.- Pallant House Gallery presents Kenneth Rowntree: A Centenary Exhibition in the De’Longhi Print Room from 22 July – 18 October 2015. A touring exhibition from the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, this is the first retrospective exhibition for British artist Kenneth Rowntree since his death in 1997 and marks the centenary of the artist’s birth.

A contemporary of Edward Bawden, Michael Rothenstein, and Eric Ravilious, with whom he became great friends, Kenneth Rowntree was influenced by a generation of artist-designers and is best known for his works in oil and watercolour. This exhibition features oil, acrylic, watercolour and gouache paintings, along with drawings, prints and posters, spanning the 1930s – 1980s.

Through his friendship with Ravilious, Rowntree moved to the idyllic village of Great Bardfield in 1941. Rowntree depicted his surroundings using playful recurring motifs, and distinct locations including the Essex countryside, the Welsh Hills and the Sussex coastline can be identified in his work. Later the Australian outback and the great landscapes of America which he visited during his travels overseas became common subjects in his work.

The exhibition includes over 20 works which demonstrate the extent of his oeuvre, from a focus on the figurative to the abstract and back again. His wide-ranging creative influences - Eric Ravilious, David Hockney, the Euston Road School, and the Dadaism of Kurt Schwitters – are evident in the selection of works, and yet the enduring themes of humour and inventiveness are consistent throughout.

Whilst living in Essex, Rowntree designed the lithograph of a tractor that came to be synonymous with rural life for a whole generation of school children, included as it was in the iconic series of School Prints which is included in the Pallant House Gallery collection. He was also nominated by Kenneth Clark to work on the project ‘Recording Britain’, which set out to record landscapes, buildings of historical significance and areas of the British countryside that were under possible threat due to war or development.

After the war he worked on several book jacket designs and had commissions for various murals including the 1951 Festival of Britain. In the summer of 1956, Rowntree and his friend Sir John Verney rented a small cottage for their families overlooking the sea at Selsey in Sussex. Here he painted ‘Toy Boat at Selsey’.

This centenary exhibition in association with Liss Llewellyn Fine Art and Moore-Gwyn Fine Art places Rowntree’s work in the wider context of the Gallery’s collection of Modern British art, including abstract and Pop artists of the 1950s and 60s such as Richard Hamilton and Victor Pasmore with whom he taught at the Royal College of Art and Newcastle University. It seeks to confirm Kenneth Rowntree’s significant place in the history of 20th century British art.

The exhibition runs in the De’Longhi Print Room from 22 July – 18 October

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