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Thomas Hennell RWS NEAC (1903-1945)


Thomas Barclay Hennell, RWS NEAC (1903-1945)

Thomas Hennell expressed his love of landscape and rural life in words and images that were at once accurate and intense. Late in his short career, he became an official war artist, and presented aspects of the international conflict through his unique vision, from Iceland to Java, where he is presumed to have been killed.

Thomas Hennell was born at the rectory attached to St Peter’s Church, Ridley, Kent, on 16 April 1903, the second of four children of the Rev Harold Barclay Hennell and his wife, Ethel (née Thomas), the daughter of a surgeon in the Madras Medical Establishment, India. His mother had studied at the Slade School of Fine Art.

During the first nine years of his life, Hennell developed a strong attachment to Ridley and its rural surroundings. In 1912, he and his family moved to Ash Rectory, just a mile to the west of Ridley, and he was sent to Hildersham House, a preparatory school in Broadstairs, though was later removed. Between 1916 and 1920, he attended Bradfield College, Berkshire, his schooldays ending abruptly after he and his friend, John George, protested against compulsory games.

Moving to London to study art at Regent Street Polytechnic School of Art (1921-25), Hennell became influenced by the work and personality of the artist, Archibald Standish Hartrick.

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