Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Louis Keene (1888-1972)   BIOGRAPHY

 
Fire services, London, circa 1941
Framed (ref: 7255)
Signed
Watercolour, india ink, pencil, and chalk 
13 1/2 x 15 1/4 in. (34.2 x 38.7 cm)

 


Provenance: The Artists daughter, Canada.


Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 33.

Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 33, page 70.

As Commanding Officer of the Lorne Scots during WW2 Keene witnessed the bombing of Liverpool and London.  According to an article in the  Evening Standard (May 29, 1942), his paintings, including  a vivid incendiary bomb picture were included in the National Gallery show of May 1942.  His obituary (Oakville, 8 May 1972) reported, While in England Col. Keene did some paintings of the air raids and these were later purchased by the British government. Some of his wartime paintings were also sold to the Canadian government.

Favouring nighttime views,  (illuminated by searchlights, fires and bombs) his pictures are often characterised by a surreal feeling, heightened by  the use of shallow perspectives and intense colours.

NELSON WONDERS; TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON, 1940;
Canadian War Museum

"The Awakening"; Liverpool. May, 1941.
Canadian War Museum


When it became clear in the late 1930s that another major European war was 
not far off, Parliament passed the Air Raid Precautions Act in 1937.  This 
obliged local authorities to organise all of the services that would be needed 
to protect their towns and the civilian population in the event of war. Naturally 
it was realised that the Fire Services would need augmenting and the 
Auxiliary Fire Service was established.  Training and equipment was provided, 
but it was not until 1941 that uniformity of equipment was achieved in order to 
avoid the possibility that when county teams were called in to a major city, 
which had suffered an attack, it was certain that their hose pipes would 
connect to the city's water mains.  The 1,450 separate Fire Brigades were 
consolidated into 38 Fire Forces and re-titled the National Fore Service during 
the Summer of 1941.

In this dramatic picture well-equipped firemen with extension ladders are 
tackling a blaze that could be in London, though such scenes were typical in 
many other industrial cities and towns across the country.  Both the Luftwaffe 
and the RAF used High Explosives to open-up buildings by smashing the 
roofs and all the windows, accompanied by incendiaries to ignite the wooden 
structures and the contents.  The opening of the building ensured that a 
constant draft fed the flames with the oxygen necessary for continuous 
combustion.



Louis Keene (1888-1972)

Born in England Keene spent his youth in South aftrica and most of his life in Canada but studied art in London, Paris  and Munich.  He came from an artistic background: his mother was a prominent photographer (the first woman to be elected to the Royal Photographic Society) and his father and artist and craftsman.  When he was only 17 Louis and his father held a joint exhibition of their paintings in South Africa.  Keene travelled throughout his life,in Europe but also Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Hong Kong, Mexico and Siberia. Throughout his army career Keene was an avid artist, using watercolour, ink and pencil, and India ink and chalk to create his pictures. They range from scenes he completed in Siberia during WWI (Canadian Expeditionary Force) to WWII paintings inspired by events in Surrey and London.

When Keene was stationed at Tweedsmuir Camp  (Surrey) during the Second World War, he permitted a few of his paintings to be exhibited in Thursley village (in close proximity to the camp) in aid of the roof fund for St Michael's church, Thursley. 
Many of Keene's works are held at the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC). 

Keene had a distinguished career in both World Wars.   In WW1 he was commissioned as second lieutenant and was wounded at Ypres his right hand smashed by shrapnel. He later spent six months with the Canadian Army in Siberia. In the Second World War, as Commanding Officer of the Lorne Scots he witnessed the bombing of Liverpool and London.  He was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

On 20 March 1943 'The Hamilton Spectator' (Canadian newspaper) announced that NDHQ had promoted Lieutenant-Colonel Louis Keene to full Colonel, with address of his next of kin. Hereafter Keene has been referred to as Colonel Keene of Oakville, Ontario. Reporting in the Spectator on 4 December 1944 Doug How, Canadian War Correspondent, stated that Keene's promotion, in February 1943, made him the highest ranking Lorne Scots Officer serving in western Europe.

Throughout his army career Keene was an avid artist, using watercolour, ink and pencil, and India ink and chalk to create his pictures. They range from scenes he completed in Siberia during WWI (Canadian Expeditionary Force) to WWII paintings inspired by events in Surrey and London.

According to his Obituary, While in England Col. Keene did some paintings of the air raids and these were later purchased by the British government. Some of his wartime paintings were also sold to the Canadian government and the artist later sold several of his works to Sir Edmund Walker, Canadian financier and one of the founders of the Toronto Art Gallery.




"The Trench Raid," Louis Keene, 1917.

See all works by Louis Keene