Kent´s Art And Artists

Kent's art and culture throughout history definitely cannot be dissociated from the mixture of ethnical components which formed the base of its population. Every incoming ethnic group had its impact and brought its unique sense of aesthetics, traditional arts and artefact manufacturing techniques. Akin to those in other parts of Europe, Kent's surviving ancient artefacts were often connected to the spirituality of the time (religion, mythology and superstition, which were, aside from survival, a significant concern for the county's inhabitants). Later, the Romans often associated decorative art with opulence and in their early development of Kent they made no exception , which is plainly observable in the large, intricate mosaics they left behind in constructions such as the Crofton Roman Villa. Their mosaics often depicted Bacchanal scenes, which were concordant with the typical aristocratic mentality and lifestyle.

Early Christian paintings still survive, for instance those found at Brook, depicting various scenes from the Bible; they were roughly dated around 1250. The most prolific art in Kent, which during the Middle Ages generated a number of highly resonant names, was certainly literature. In later medieval times however, there was an extensive interval when all arts were subject to a rigorous mandatory code imposed by politically motivated censorship (brought on by the skewed and fanatical interpretation of religious principles). Yet that did not stop talents from emerging and developing, even during times of very strict control, but it did lead to the persecution of some artists such as playwright Christopher Marlowe, for unconventional ideas. During the 19th and 20th centuries, a number of notable artists specialising in visual arts (painting, illustrating, engraving, sculpting etc.) became famous.

Renowned artists

Anna Atkins (1799-1871), photographer, botanist and illustrator. A pioneer in illustration and photography - and according to some sources, the very first female photographer - Ana Atkins, born in Tonbridge, was the first in England to illustrate a book with photographic representations. Some were achieved through early methods, whilst others were taken with a rudimentary camera, which was a fascinating device to operate at the time. Her work, begun in 1843, which took a decade to complete, was structured in three volumes and entitled 'Photographs of the British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions'.

Richard Dadd (1819-1897), painter. Fascinated with the metaphysical world, Richard Dadd was born in Chatham and unfolded his artistic activity during the Victorian era. He was a perfectionist and had a great preoccupation for detail, which is plain to see in his numerous works. His life however was marked by tragedy, as during a trip to the Far East he lost his sanity, after which he committed patricide and was confined to a psychiatric hospital, where he continued painting.

John Hassall (1868-1948), illustrator. Born in Walmer and receiving his basic education at Worthing and Heidelberg, John Hassall studied arts in Paris and later became an advertising artist. He illustrated many children's story books and nursery rhyme collections and enjoyed commendable popularity due to his original and elaborate style. He was member of a few artists' societies in England and later opened his own art school.

Mary Martin (1907-1969), painter and sculptor. This English artist was born in Folkestone and attended the Royal College of Art in London, where she met her future husband, who was also an artist. They were to collaborate professionally as well. In her early career as a painter she produced many landscape and still life representations, yet in her later years she moved towards a more avant-garde approach (abstract painting) and sculpture.

Gertrude Hermes (1901-1983), printmaker, wood engraver and sculptor. She was born at Bickley and for a number of years studied the arts of wood engraving and sculpting at the Leon Underwood School of Painting and Sculpture. She was later to teach these arts as well. Her numerous works were exhibited by notable galleries and during important events such as the Venice International Exhibition. She also received awards for her talent and dedication.

Quentin Blake (Born 1932), illustrator, writer and cartoonist. An artistic personality of many talents, Quentin Blake was born in Sidcup and perfected his aptitudes at the Chelsea School of Art. Besides having a career as a teacher, he focused on children's books, both as an author and illustrator, illustrating more than 300 throughout his career. He has also worked on urban projects, advertising and is intensely involved in charity work.

Renowned composers

Henry Russell, (1812-1900). Born in Sheerness, Henry Russell manifested his brilliant musical talent in a number of ways. His chosen instrument was the piano, yet besides being a pianist, he was also a baritone and a composer. His ample and varied work showed intense support for social justice and human rights. He is also remembered for adapting instrumental religious music to a speedy playing rhythm and converting it into popular lay music.

Sir Malcolm Sargent, (1895-1967). Originating from Bath Vilas in Ashford, Sir Malcolm Sargent served as an organist at St Mary's Church in Melton Mowbray, before beginning his prolific career, during which he conducted some of England's best musical ensembles. He was a composer and conductor and participated in an impressive number of performances for huge audiences of all social backgrounds, achieving unanimous acclaim.

George Posford, (1906-1976). Born in Folkestone, George Posford had a fruitful career in composing music for artistic genres such as musical theatre and cinematographic productions, as well as for orchestral performances. His most prolific decades were the 1930s, 1940, and 1950s.

Art museums and galleries

Francis Iles Gallery. Located in Rochester, the gallery displays the works of over a hundred contemporary artists, mainly consisting of sculptures, paintings and glasswork (jewellery and ceramics). Moreover, the gallery offers certain specialised reconditioning services.

Lilford Gallery. Situated in Canterbury, Lilford Gallery seeks to popularise the works of many present day artists, among them sculptors, painters (the gallery hosts a large array of oil and acrylic paintings), photographers and many more.

Royal Museum and Art Gallery. Hosted in a 19th century construction of remarkable architectural beauty, this institution serves as a central museum, art gallery and library of the city of Canterbury. Its art exhibitions comprises many notable paintings, including medieval portraits.

Other institutions displaying large and comprehensive art collections are the Liberty Gallery of Contemporary and Fine Arts, located near Maidstone, Headcorn Gallery, located in Ashford, Nevill Gallery, located in and Canterbury, and Georges House Gallery, located in Folkestone.