Leslie Kent Biography

In his Notes on Painting Leslie records that he always enjoyed drawing and painting from as far back as he can remember, initially pencil and water colour. He first tried oils when his uncle, Arthur Kemp Tebby, encouraged him in 1911. In 1918, recovering from an infection, he recuperated in St Ives where in the local galleries he noticed paintings by Fred Milner. He visited the artist at 3 Piazza Studios, off Porthmeor Road and asked if he gave lessons, "No" was the answer, but after seeing some of Leslie's sketches he agreed to give him lessons every morning for the six weeks Leslie spent in St Ives. He returned there on holiday from time to time and records much advice given him by other local artists, and he also painted at the Slade and at the Langham Art Club. In 1945 he became a full time, professional, artist, his favourite subjects being wide landscapes, harbours, estuaries and boats with a particular aptitude for sea and sky.

He first exhibited at the ROI in 1929, at the RBA in 1932 and the RA in 1934. He served on the Councils of the RBA and the RSMA. He was a prolific painter, holding five one-man exhibitions between 1932 and 1968. He records painting his 1,000th picture in 1967 (when he was 77), of which 567 had been sold, 122 given as presents, 106 were on exhibition or in stock, and 205 had been destroyed (more probably overpainted). Several of his pictures were used by organisations for their cards or calendars – John Laing & Co. were keen on them – and both Medici and Royle's have reproduced his paintings as prints or on their cards on many occasions.

Leslie and Margaret in studio

Leslie and Margaret in his studio c.1970

His record of pictures painted is reproduced in Appendix 1, and of pictures sold or given away, in Appendix 2. These lists do not always tally, and it is clear that he painted rather more pictures than are listed.

Leslie Harcourt Kent was born in 1890, educated at Durlston Court Prep School at Swanage, and at Bedales, Petersfield. In 1909 he went to South Africa to see his brother Geoffrey, a Lieutenant in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI). At Leeds University from 1910 to 1913 he graduated in Mechanical and Civil Engineering. He hoped to enter the Royal Navy but his eyesight was not good enough so he joined the family firm, George Kent Ltd. (founded by his grandfather in 1838) which manufactured domestic equipment, meters and instrumentation.

He joined the Territorial Royal Engineers before the war, and served on the Western Front in France in 1915. His front line sketches and diary of this time are in the Imperial War Museum. He was then recalled to the firm to work on fuse production and other war requirements. He stayed on in the firm becoming Assistant General Manager, then Director in charge of Production and later for Publications and Publicity.

Leslie married Margaret Schierwater in 1921 and they had two sons, Barrie and David. In 1930, while on a business trip to Australia and New Zealand he was injured, hitting his head on the roof of a car being driven too fast over a rough road, as a result of which he suffered a spinal disorder (Syringo-myelia) which gradually affected his sense of touch and balance. Thus in 1945 he decided to retire from full time work though staying on at the firm as a Director for another fifteen years.