Rowntree, Kenneth

(1915 – 1997)

A Game of Boules, Acomb

SKU: 10878

Oil on canvas

19 3/10 x 15 1/3 in. (49 x 39 cm)

Height: 49cm
Width: 39cm


Modern British Gallery; Private Collection since 2006

In 1959, Rowntree became Professor of Fine Art at Durham University and it was there that he came into contact with Victor Pasmore, precipitating a further 90¬∞ turn in his work. During the 1960s and 1970s, he created a series of bright, hard-edged, geometric, non-figurative works, often incorporating lettering, either painted or collaged. He also delighted in recycling and reworking objets trouvés and bits of old packing cases, complete with stencilled names and addresses.

Despite this, he never totally relinquished his earlier Romantic vision, switching back, albeit in a more simplified vein, when the mood took him. This can be seen in a series of beguilingly playful landscapes that Rowntree produced in the 1980’s, from his Northumberland home at Acomb, just North-west of Hadrian’s Wall. 

A Game of Boules is very characteristic of this work; so too The Naming of the Parts, 1987, where the trees in Rowntree’s Acomb garden are variously inscribed Victoria Plum’, Holly’, Hawthorn’ and so on, as if it were a manual for the identification of foliage.

Inscription in artist’s hand, on reverse:

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Rowntree, Kenneth

1915 – 1997

Painter, illustrator, artist in collage and murals, draughtsman and teacher, born in Scarborough, Yorkshire. He studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing, Oxford, under Albert Rutherston, 1934’35, and at the Slade under Randolph Schwabe. During World War II he participated in the Pilgrim Trust Recording Britain project and was an Official War Artist. He had his first one-man exhibition at Leicester Galleries in 1946; other one-man shows followed at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Zwemmer Gallery, New Art Centre, and the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a retrospective at Hatton Gallery there in 1980. In 1949 he became a tutor at RCA, a post he held until 1958. In 1959 he became Professor of Fine Arts, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, succeeding Lawrence Gowing; he held the position until 1980. In 1992 a touring retrospective was organinsed, starting in Newtown. Group shows included NEAC, AIA and RSW. He became a member of the Society of Mural Painters in 1943, taught mural painting at the Royal College of Art for 10 years from 1948, and received a Ford Foundation Grant to visit America in 1959. In 1948 he illustrated A Prospect of Wales. Murals completed include those for Barclay School, Stevenage, 1946, RMS Orsova and Iberia, 1954, and the British Pavilion at Brussels International Exhibition in 1958. In 1951 he painted murals for the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion at the Festival of Britain. Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum and WAC are among many public owners of his work. Rowntree’s pictures reflect the genial and witty nature of the artist, usually being landscapes and townscapes in which the elements have a toy-like neatness and familiar notations are employed. In the post-war years he also painted a considerable number of abstract (and semi-abstract) works. His work is sometimes signed with just his initials. He lived at Corbridge, Northumberland.


Kenneth Rowntree
Coffee Pot, Cup, Table: The Pyrenees, circa 1970
Kenneth Rowntree
Nocturne, 1988
Kenneth Rowntree
Mountains – Umbria, 1974
Kenneth Rowntree
Wadham College Barge
Kenneth Rowntree
Battle of Crecy I, circa 1970
Kenneth Rowntree
Di Venezia, 1960s
Kenneth Rowntree
Three Figures
Kenneth Rowntree
St Johns College Barge on the Isis at Oxford, c. 1955
Kenneth Rowntree
Winter Garden, Acomb
Kenneth Rowntree
Putney Garden, 1960s
Kenneth Rowntree
Homage to Verlaine (Chanson dAutome), 1984
Kenneth Rowntree
Night and Day I, 1988
Kenneth Rowntree
Sky, Sea, North Umber, 1981
Kenneth Rowntree
Falling Rain with Raised Flag
Kenneth Rowntree
Shapes in Movement II, 1958