Kenneth Edwin Wootton (1885-1974)
This remarkable collection of works is by Kenneth Edwin Wootton (1885-1974), graduate of the Royal Academy of Art and recipient of the Military Cross. The collection principally comprises exceptionally sensitive portrait studies and observational sketches of architectural detail. The works reveal Wootton’s place amongst other figurative British artists who received a grounding in life drawing at London’s art colleges in the early years of the 20th century, and also his keen eye for architectural subjects - fostered in a context of the Arts and Crafts movement and his formative experiences of bomb damage during the First World War. The works span a significant portion of the artist’s life, from 1911 to 1953.
Wootton was a student of the Royal Academy of Art between 1905 and 1910, and also attended classes at Clapham Art School. He was called up to the Tank Corp in 1915, where he fought in the trenches of the Western Front. He was present at significant offensives, including the Battle of Passchendaele, and kept a diary and sketchbook as a means of documenting his time in the military. His career in the Army was cut short by an explosion in 1917, and he spent some time recovering at a hospital in Rouen in France. On his return from war he was awarded the Military Cross for his ‘Conspicuous Gallantry’. After the war, Wootton settled in Coventry, where he taught at Bablake School and continued his practice as an artist; this collection includes a number of sketches from around Coventry, including poignant images of bomb damage during the Second World War.
The world-renowned collection at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne houses oil paintings by Wootton that exemplify his talents as a portraitist. His style resembles the work of other modern British artists of the period, including Augustus John, portrait painter Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer (Gertler’s contemporary at the Slade), and work of the wider Bloomsbury and Camden Town Groups.