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THE PROPERTY OF THE LATE JOHN BYNG KENRICK
John Byng Kenrick (1911-2002) came from one of Birmigham's most illustrious families. Second son of Wilfred Byng Kenrick, Lord Mayor of Birmingham in 1939, the Kenricks can count three Mayors of Birmingham amongst their number. Through marriage the family was connected to three other leading Birmingham families, the Martineaus, Beales and Chamberlains. Since 1946 four of the Martineau family have held the position of Mayor or Lord Mayor of Birmingham, also Charles Gabriel Beale and Joseph and Neville Chamberlain. Neville Chamberlain subsequently became Prime Minister, 1937-40. William Kenrick (1831-1919) was also Member of Parliament from 1885-1899. The four families were leading figures in the non-conformist church and marriages between the families, including no less than four between the Kenricks and the Chamberlains created a strong family structure. In addition to their involvement in the civic life of Birmingham, all the families played a significant role in the city's academic institutions, producing three Pro-Chancellors of the University and two Chairmen of the Education Committee.
However the Arts were not neglected and there was a strong tradition of collecting amongst the Kenrick family. William Kenrick commissioned the ardent Ruskinian architect John Henry Chamberlain to rebuild the farmhouse 'The Grove' (see fig. 1), which he acquired in 1876. The panelled ante-room from 'The Grove' is one of the outstanding features of the Victorian Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The room was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum by the Kenrick Family and Birmingham City Council in 1963, when it was clear that the house would be demolished. William Kenrick was an enthusiastic patron of the arts on both a personal and municipal level. He was Chairman of the School of Art Committee from 1874-1912 and a patron of the Museum and Art Gallery. He also filled his house with works by the leading painters of the day including Burne-Jones, Holman Hunt, J.E. Millais, Albert Moore and John Linnell (see fig. 2) and he also acquired a vast collection of pottery and porcelain including Chinese 'blue and white' and pieces by contemporary artists such as William de Morgan.
A number of the pieces in the present collection were acquired by William Kenrick, such as the fine Peter de Wint, lot 100. John Byng Kenrick inherited this passion for the arts from his grandfather, building up a fine collection of watercolours. The watercolours in the collection were sourced mainly from the top London dealers of the day including Agnew's, Spink, John Manning and Anthony Reed between 1964 and 1986 and include fine examples of works from the early topographical tradition of watercolour painting, by artists such as Francis Towne, John Downman, Anthony Devis and Michael Angelo Rooker and also works by key figures from the 'Golden Age' of British watercolours including a previously unrecorded work by J.M.W. Turner, Peter de Wint, John Varley and the Birmingham artist David Cox.