Thomas Benjamin Kennington

British, b.1856, d.1916


  • 1908
  • Oil on canvas
  • Robert Bell Bequest, 1943
  • 1068 x 1525mm
  • 69/377

Thomas Benjamin Kennington’s focus as an artist was in the sympathetic depiction of the everyday reality of the poor and working classes. Born in Grimsby, a seaport on England's east coast, he studied art in Liverpool, London and Paris, and from 1880 exhibited annually at the Royal Academy, where this naturalistic workroom scene was shown in 1908.

Relaxation was exhibited at the 1911 International Exposition of Art in Rome and at the 1913 New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts exhibiton in Wellington. By 1920 it was in the hands of newspaper proprietor Robert Bell. Bell was president of the Canterbury Society of Arts from 1925–26, and bequeathed ten paintings to the gallery. (Treasury: A Generous Legacy, 18 December 2015 – 27 November 2016)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • Women working with fabric and thread have long been a subject for art and here Thomas Kennington is featuring what looks to be a group of milliners in their workroom. Many of Kennington's works were concerned with the daily life and social activities of the middle and upper classes. Without spoiling the realism, in Relaxation he has carefully placed the figures to take the eye naturally across the composition to contribute to its sense of unity. This work was exhibited at the Royal Academy and reproduced in Royal Academy Pictures in 1908. Kennington was born in Great Grimsby, a fishing port on the north east coast of England. During the 1870s he studied at the Liverpool School of Art and the Royal College of Art, where he was awarded a gold medal, and the Académie Julian in Paris. Kennington was a member of the Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil. He exhibited at the Royal Academy for 36 years, from 1880 to his death. (Label date unknown)