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British picture restorers, 1600-1950 - K

An online resource, launched in 2009, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated March 2021. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].

Introduction Resources and bibliography

Added March 2019
Henry Lewis Keens, 7 Britannia Row, Islington, London 1822, 9 Bedford Place 1838, 14 Queen’s Row, Cambridge Road, Bethnal Green 1840-1841, 18 William St, Islington 1842, 3 Counter Hill Terrace, Deptford 1843, Maria Villa, 30 Culford Road, Beauvoir Town, Kingsland by 1848-1865, also at 18 Threadneedle St by 1846-1852 or later. Flower painter, picture restorer and colour supplier.

Henry Lewis Keens (1799-1865) was born in December 1799 and christened at Christ Church, Spitalfields the following February, the son of Thomas and Sophia Keens. He exhibited occasionally at the Royal Academy, starting in 1822. He married Mary Celestinne La Roch in 1824 at St Luke, Old Street. In census records he can be found in 1841 in Queen’s Row, Bethnal Green, as Henry Keenes, portrait painter, with wife Celestine and eight children, in 1851 in Culford Road, Hackney, as a painter, born Spitalfields, age 51, with wife Mary, age 49, daughter Mary, age 20, and six young sons, and in 1861 as portrait and miniature painter with wife and three sons. He died in February 1865, described as an artist, late of 30 Culford Road, leaving effects under £300, with his widow, Mary Celestine Keens, his sole executrix.

Keens held an account with Roberson, 1840-60 (Woodcock 1997). Not only did he make purchases from Roberson, he was also one of their suppliers, cleaning pictures for them and supplying ‘white’, ox gall, tracing paper etc, 1848-52 (Hamilton Kerr Institute, MS 944-1983, pp.351-4, 412).

William Kent. Architect, garden designer and decorative painter.

The work of William Kent (1685-1748) as an architect, garden designer and decorative painter has been extensively treated elsewhere (e.g. Colvin 2008 pp.612-9, John Dixon Hunt, William Kent: Landscape Garden Designer, 1987, Croft-Murray 1970 pp.229-35, Susan Weber, ed., William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain, 2013).

In his capacity as Surveyor or Inspector of Paintings in the Royal Palaces, to which position he was appointed in 1728, Kent was responsible for a number of restoration schemes. At Windsor Castle, he was paid £750 for work undertaken on repairing the paintings on two great staircases in 1729 and for repairing 15 ceilings and another staircase in 1730 (William A. Shaw (ed.), Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers, 1729-30, 1897, pp.168, 402). At the Banqueting House, Whitehall, he was paid for lining and cleaning some of Rubens’s ceiling paintings, which the King and Queen came to see in January 1734 (Croft-Murray 1970 p.235, Colvin 2008 p.613, Martin 2005 p.113). In 1743 George Vertue stated that the canvases had been taken down, lined and cleaned under Kent’s care, the great middle piece some years previously and one of the end pieces ‘now lately’ (Vertue vol.5, p.26); work on one of the side panels was undertaken by Stephen Wright at a cost of £48.10s in 1748 (Martin 2005 p.114).

Sources: Martin 2005 pp.113-4. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Tilly Kettle, Oxford and the Midlands 1762-1764, Great Queen St, London 1764-1766, Conduit St, London 1767-1768, India 1769-1776, London 1776, 8 Berners St, London 1777, Old Bond St, London 1780-1783, Dublin. Portrait painter.

Tilly Kettle (1735-86) worked as a portrait painter in London and India. Early in his career, in 1762, he was employed to line and repair Robert Streeter’s ceiling painting in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford for the huge sum of £373 (Croft-Murray 1970 p.236; see also Bodleian Library, University Archives, WPβ 22/1).

Sources: James Milner, ‘Tilly Kettle, 1735-1786’, Walpole Society, vol.15, 1927, especially pp.53, 77, 79; Mildred Archer, India and British portraiture, 1770-1825, 1979, pp.66, 92-94. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

*Kathleen Kimber (1930-2003). Conservator in the Department of Antiquities, Ashmolean Museum, 1954-95.

Outside the time frame of this online resource, but see profile by Mark Norman in The Ashmolean, no.29, 1995, p.4.

Added September 2017, updated September 2018
Reuben Webster King,
Old Broad Row, Yarmouth 1839-1841, London St, Norwich 1843 or before, Princes St, Norwich 1843, Palace St, Norwich 1845, 38 Blackheath Hill, Greenwich 1851, 1855, Blackheath Hill, Greenwich 1857. Stationer, portrait and miniature painter, silhouettist and picture liner.

Reuben Webster King (c.1807?-1857) led a varied career as a stationer, portrait and miniature painter, silhouettist and picture liner. He was the son of Tyrrell King and Hannah Webster, and was christened on 14 August 1814 at Trowse on the outskirts of Norwich. He married Maria Ann Sharer at St Saviour, Norwich, on 6 March 1836. King faced difficulties as an insolvent debtor in 1843 when he was described in court proceedings as being in Norwich gaol and listed as Reuben Webster King, formerly of Old Broad Row, Yarmouth, artist, portrait and miniature painter, and stationer, afterwards also dealer in pictures, then of London St, Norwich, and late of Princes St in the parish of St Peter at Hungate, Norwich (London Gazette 19 May, 20 June 1843). 

In census records King can be found in 1841 in Broad Row, Great Yarmouth, age 25, possibly in error for 35 (ages were rounded down to the nearest five in this census), as an artist, with his wife, Maria, age 40, and in 1851 at 38 Blackheath Hill, age 44, as an artist and picture dealer, with his wife Mary, age 50. He died in 1857 in the Greenwich district. In his will, dated 17 February 1837 and proved 7 November 1857, Reuben Webester, otherwise Webster King, artist of Blackheath Hill, Kent, left his estate to his wife Maria Ann King (National Archives, PROB 11/2262/2).

Little is recorded in detail of King’s activities. As a silhouettist, he is known for his silhouette of the Rev. Clement Chevallier (Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, see Sue McKechnie, British silhouette artists and their work, 1760-1860, 1978, pp.424-5). This work bears his trade label: ‘R. W. KING,/ Fancy and General/ STATIONER/ PORTRAIT AND MINIATURE PAINTER AND PROFILIST,/ OLD BROAD ROW, YARMOUTH./ An accurate Likeness taken by a Patent Machine, for/ One Shilling./ Miniature and other Frames in great variety./ Miniatures of all descriptions accurately cop[ied].

As a picture liner, he lined Francis Hayman’s The Tyers Family (National Portrait Gallery), applying his stamp twice, reading: ‘R.W. KING./ Picture Liner, &c [in gothic type]/ [NORWI]CH [largely illegible, possibly] [YARMOUT]H]’.

In 1855 King described himself in the Kent Post Office directory as ‘artist, picture restorer, dealer in old paintings & articles of virtu, commission agent &c.’.

Thomas King, Chichester from 1804, 52 East St, Chichester by 1814-1845. Artist, antiquary, engraver, medallist and sculpture restorer.

Thomas Aylward King (1775-1845) was educated in the Isle of Wight, moving to Chichester in 1804 (Journal of the British Archaeological Association, vol.2, 1847, p.373, accessed through Google Book Search). He was described in Pigot’s Directory of Sussex for 1839 as an antiquarian draughtsman and an antiquary, medallist, artist and engraver. In the 1841 census he was recorded in East St, Chichester, as Thomas King, artist. He died in East St on 9 August 1845, when his age was given as 67. In his will, made 1 December 1843 and proved 10 September 1845, Thomas Aylward King, artist of East St, Chichester, made various bequests, including to his brothers and sisters.

King restored a painted wooden monument to John (d.1621) and William Cawley in Chichester Cathedral (north choir aisle), originally in the church of St Andrew, Oxmarket; it is inscribed on the left column base: RESTORED BY THOS KING ARTIST & ANTIQUARY A.D. 1840 (see also Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle 24 April 1843). He engraved illustrations for Dallaway and Cartwright’s History of Sussex, 1815-32, and drew and engraved the print, 'Antiquities in Chichester Cathedral’ in 1839, describing himself as ‘Thos. King Antiquary and Medallist' (example in West Sussex Record Office, Cowdray Archives, COWDRAY/5132/f.12).

Sources: Brian Stewart and Mervyn Cutten, Chichester Artists 1530-1900, Canterbury, 1987, pp.28-9 (repr. a striking self-portrait engraving, 1837, describing him as Delineator and Engraver of Antiquities in Sussex and as Antiquary and Medallist to the Philosophical and Literary Society of Chichester). Research notes for this publication can be found in the Cutten papers, West Sussex Record Office, Cutten A/1/1/3, drawn to my attention by Timothy Hudson.

Added March 2018
John Zacharias Knelller (1644-1702). Portrait, decorative and miniature painter. Picture restorer and framer.

Elder brother of Sir Godfrey Kneller, he was born in Lubeck in 1642. He travelled with his brother to Italy in 1672 and to England in 1676. He was buried at St Paul’s Covent Garden in London on 31 August 1702. The best account of his life and work is by Edward Croft-Murray (see Sources below for this and other references). He made miniature copies in oil and watercolour of his brother’s portraits. He painted still-lives and architectural decoration. He is included here for his documented work for the Earl of Dorset in 1696, which included both framing and picture restoration. It is not clear whether he carried out this work himself or subcontracted it.

For the Earl of Dorset he carried out work, both in framing and picture restoration, to the value of £31.15s in 1696 (Kent History Centre, U269, A197/9, information from Edward Town). For two ‘pictures of Titian’, presumably the Titian copies, Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto, now at Knole in Kent, he charged £5 for lining and new stretchers, £6 for a pair of carved and burnished frames and £1.5s for a packing box. For ‘Silenus’, presumably the large Rubens copy, The Drunken Silenus Supported by Satyrs now at Knole, £2 for lining and a stretcher, and £3 for a carved frame. For one of the six copies from Raphael’s cartoons, then at Copt Hall in Essex but now at Knole, £2.10s for lining. For help in washing the pictures in the gallery, perhaps also at Copt Hall, £3. For a full-length portrait of Lord Middlesex, perhaps one of the two portraits of the 1st Earl now at Knole, £1.5s for lining.

Otherwise, little is known of John Kneller’s work but he can be found in York in April 1677 when his brother wrote to him (see Douglas Stewart). A portrait of Sir Godfrey Copley is credited to him on the basis of the imprint, ‘I. Kneller pinx.’ in a mezzotint of 1692. He usually signed his miniatures with his initials, ‘I.Z.K’. There are two oil miniatures on copper, Greville Doddington, Duchess of Manchester, 1690, and King William III in the Victoria and Albert Museum. His drawing of a hog, signed ‘J K ft:’ is in the British Museum. ‘A Piece of still Life by John Kneller and a Conversation by Hemskirk’ appeared in the sale of Charles Earl of Halifax on 6 March 1739/40, lot 3 (Lugt 497).

Sources: Edward Croft-Murray and Paul Hulton, Catalogue of British Drawings. XVI & XVII Centuries, British Museum, 1960, pp.395-6; J. Douglas Stewart, Sir Godfrey Kneller and the English Baroque Portrait, 1983, pp.183-6.

Found a mistake? Have some extra information? Please contact Jacob Simon at [email protected].



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