T. E. Lawrence — Eric Kennington: Artist

Steve Newman Writer
6 min readMay 30, 2022

“I first saw him in Lowell Thomas’s film at the Albert Hall: glorious photography, glamour and oratory…” Eric Kennington

Bust of T. E. Lawrence by Eric Kennington. Image: christies.com

When Kennington came out of the Albert Hall on that sunny day in 1920 he felt ‘drunk’ with emotion and was determined to meet this Lawrence of Arabia somehow. Sadly, he found it impossible: even Lowell Thomas refused to divulge Lawrence’s address. Over the days and weeks that followed Kennington’s interest in the man began to wane until one day, visiting his picture dealer, he was told that Lawrence had been into his gallery and bought two of Kennington’s soldiers.

Just an example of a Kennington ‘Soldier’. He drew and painted many. Image: stephenongpin.com

Better still Lawrence had left his address: All Souls, Oxford. Kennington wrote to Lawrence there and then requesting if they meet in Oxford. Lawrence agreed, and as Kennington has written:

“He was on the platform, and had to introduce himself, for I could not connect him with Lowell Thomas’s screen-seraph. I met a small grinning, hatless kid [Lawrence would have been 32, or thereabouts], bothered by a lot of untidy hair falling over his eyes.

“He seemed apologetic, and made me a superior and most distinguished person [Lawrence was good at that]. He let me plaster him with the Lowell Thomas romance, gently protesting that it was far from the truth. In his rooms he explained that he had done very little, had been extremely lucky in having good men to work with, and that he preferred buying pictures to fighting. That any creative artist was a much finer creature than any soldier, and managed to suggest that I was really the uncrowned king…he giggled often…”

Eric Kennington by Howard Coster, 1936. Image: National Portrait Gallery

Lawrence then began to tell Kennington about the book he was writing, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and did he know any artist “…who could make portraits from photographs?” Kennington replied that that “…would be no good. The artist must see the person.” That’s a pity, said Lawrence, for my sitters are in various parts of Arabia. Perhaps I could out to Arabia and draw them? asked Kennington.

Steve Newman Writer

Playwright and Freelance Writer…