Cecil Kennedy was born in Leyton on 4th February 1905. He was born into a very large Victorian family who were all very artistic. Kennedy is one of the most well known members of the English Contemporary School. He painted some portraits but will always be best remembered for his minutely detailed paintings of flowers. Kennedy studied art in London and began exhibiting his work from an early age. Before he was 24 he had shown at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy and he then went onto exhibit regularly at the Royal Academy and in the provinces.
During the early 1930’s Cecil Kennedy married Winifred Aves and she was to become a major influence and inspiration to him. For sixty four years they worked together as a creative team. She was very skilled at creating the beautiful flower arrangements that Kennedy painted and over the years the couple collected many mid eighteenth Century Waterford vases which continually featured in his work. In the Second World War Kennedy was called up and he fought in the Eight Army in Europe. During the winter of 1944 Kennedy was based in Antwerp and it was here that he familiarized himself with the Dutch and Flemish Old Master flower paintings at first hand.
He befriended Flemish painters and this interaction brought about a definite change in Kennedy’s painting style and technique.
From the 1950’s until the 1970’s Kennedy exhibited regularly at the Fine Art Society, who were keen advocates of his work. He was awarded a silver medal at the Paris Salon in 1956 and a gold medal in 1970. The artist had many important patrons during his life including 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’. It was she who noticed a ladybird that Kennedy had painted on the stem of a flower and Kennedy always incorporated a ladybird into his paintings thereafter. Lord Thomson was also a great admirer of Kennedy’s work.
In his work he often juxtaposes modern exotic hybrid blooms with traditional English flowers and grasses as well as plant species celebrated in the work of the Old Masters. He knew much about flowers and his use of all white flower arrangements reflected his awareness of 20th Century horticultural trends such as Vita Sackville-West’s White Garden at Sissinghurst. His work is celebrated for its exquisite detail and artful composition and his paintings can be found in Royal, Corporate and Private Collections throughout the world.
Cecil Kennedy is widely regarded as the finest British painter of flowers of the 20th Century.