What must George Kenner, a German national, living and working in his print business in Farringdon, have felt like in 1915, when he was arrested after the sinking of RMS Lusitania and sent to the PoW camp Ally Pally? We don’t know – but he did leave us a collection of marvellous paintings, done in captivity, which to this day provide historians with some of the best material about life in the civilian PoW camps of the period.
Georg Kennerknecht was born in 1888 in the small Bavarian town of Schwabsoien, in Germany. He went to art school and moved to London in 1910 where he worked at and co-owned the small “process artist” company Waddington & Kennerknecht at 73 Farringdon Street with a British partner. He also attended night school at London’s Lambeth School of Art to study airbrush techniques. The declaration of war changed his status overnight and he was registered as an “alien enemy” in 1914. Public outrage at the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat the following year changed his already compromised status once again and, like many German nationals he was now considered as a potential danger and interned in a camp in Alexandra Palace. However as a trained commercial artist by profession, and wanting to stay in practice with his work, he negotiated with the PoW camp authorities to be allowed to create what became the most extensive collection of World War I internment scenes known. He was held at three different sites through the war but his paintings of every day life in Ally Pally are fascinating documents for historians of our area.
If you’re interested in knowing more there will be an evening devoted to the man and his work held at Alexandra Palace on Tuesday, 30 June 2015. Doors Open 6:30PM Starts 7:00PM