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Eric Kennington RA, Abd-el-Rahman

Abd-el-Rahman, 1921

Eric Kennington RA (1888 - 1960)

RA Collection: Art

This pastel portrait was produced as one of the original illustrations to T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Abd el Rahman is mentioned in Chapter LXXI where Lawrence recalls: '... I enrolled Showakh and Salem, two Sherari camel-herds, and Abd el Rahman, a runaway slave from Riadh, now freedman of Mohammed el Dheilan, the Toweihi.'

Commissioned by Lawrence but at his own expense, Eric Kennington travelled to the Middle East in March 1921 where he produced a group of pastel portraits of people who featured in the memoir. When he returned to London these works were shown at the Leicester Galleries and they became known as the 'Kennington Arabs'. Lawrence's original plan for his book included these portraits, and others depicting British officials, but he first had the manuscript printed in a very limited edition without illustrations at Oxford in 1922. The subsequent 'Subsciber's edition' was published in 1926 with 125 illustrations, including Kennington's portraits and endpapers. Further art work was commissioned from Frank Dobson, Colin Gill, Augustus John, Henry Lamb, William Nicholson, William Roberts, William Rothenstein, Gilbert Spencer, Paul Nash, Blair Hughes-Stanton and John Singer Sargent.

Lawrence and Kennington became good friends, with the former commenting that the artist was 'a great man, an exceedingly fine draughtsman, and a good psychologist'. After reading the Seven Pillars, Kennington was apparently 'moved to incongruous mirth' and produced a number of comic sketches based on the text. Lawrence approved of these, stating that 'it's good that someone is decent enough to find laughter in a stodgy mess of mock-heroic egotism.'

Kennington also produced a bust of Lawrence (1926, Tate Britain), a recumbent tomb effigy for St Martin's Church, Wareham, Dorset and a memorial wall plaque for the Oxford School (commissioned by Sir Winston Churchill).

Object details

Eric Kennington RA (1888 - 1960)
Object type
Pastel on green-toned paper

494 mm x 558 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Eric Kennington RA accepted 1959
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