T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) was a lieutenant colonel during the First World War, fighting at Aqaba, Jordon, with the Arabs against the Ottoman Turks. The Arab and British armys forced the Ottoman army to withdraw from the territory, thus protecting the Suez Canal and earning T.E. Lawrence the title 'Lawrence of Arabia'. This was was later used as the title of the 1962 film about his life, directed by David Lean, featuring Peter O'Toole as Lawrence. In 1922 Lawrence published the account of his experience during the war in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and a posthumous edition of this book was published in 1935 with a cast of the present work illustrated on its frontispiece.
Lawrence sat for the modelling of the bust in November - December 1926, and Kennington created it in three hour-long sittings. In a letter to Kennington on 15 February 1927, the month of the Leicester Galleries exhibition, Lawrence wrote to the artist about the bust. He expressed his admiration for it, 'It's amazing: and very curious ... Yours is magificent; there is no other word for it. It represents not me, but my top-moments, those few seconds in which I succeed in thinking myself right out of things ... The face and neck are treated with a dry precision and strength and confidence very unusual in recent sculpture: in any portrait sculpture ... It hangs together as a most convincing portrait of a person very sure of himself' (see D. Garnett (ed.), The Letters of T.E. Lawrence, London, 1938, pp. 507-508).
When working in gilded brass Kennington usually produced 2 or 3 casts: Kennington had one of these in the 'Lawrence room' that was upstairs in his home at Homer House, Ipsden, South Oxfordshire, from May 1936. There are an additional 6 bronze casts of this bust - one is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and another in the collection of Tate Gallery, London. A further cast of the bronze bust was unveiled by Lord Halifax, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 29 January 1936, shortly after Lawrence's death. It remains there today, facing Nelson's Sarcophagus. There is another bronze bust in the entrance of the chapel at Jesus College, Oxford, where Lawrence was educated between 1907 and 1910, and another at Clouds Hill, Dorset, Lawrence's cottage, now run by the National Trust.
We are very grateful to Dr Jonathan Black for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.