Leonard Rosoman

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Leonard Rosoman
London Afs- Men of the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, C 1940 D2642.jpg
Men of the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, c.1940: Left to right, Auxiliary Firemen Bernard Hailstone, Leonard Rosoman and Richard Southern.
Leonard Rosoman

(1913-10-27)27 October 1913
London, England
Died21 February 2012(2012-02-21) (aged 98)
Known forDrawing, painting

Leonard Rosoman OBE RA (27 October 1913 – 21 February 2012) was a British artist.[1]

Early life[edit]

Rosoman was born in London and educated at the Deacon's school, Peterborough,[2] and then at the King Edward VII school of art in Newcastle upon Tyne, under E.M.O'R. Dickey in 1930–4, at the Royal Academy Schools in 1935–6 and at the Central School under Bernard Meninsky in 1937–8.

His first major break came in 1937, with a commission to illustrate My Friend Mr Leakey, a children's book by the scientist JBS Haldane.[3] From 1938 he ran life classes at the Reinmann school, the London branch of a Berlin art college.[2]

World War II[edit]

A House Collapsing on Two Firemen, Shoe Lane, London, EC4,(Art.IWM ART LD 1353)
A Black Aeroplane on a Red Deck, Aircraft massed on the Flight Deck of HMS Formidable. (Art.IWM ART LD 5631)

At the beginning of the Second World War Rosoman joined the Auxiliary Fire Service, which in 1941 became the National Fire Service, and began making paintings based on his experiences as a fire-fighter during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz in London.[2] One of these A House Collapsing on Two Firemen, Shoe Lane, London, EC4 (1941), now in the Imperial War Museum,[4] shows the incident on the night of 29/30 December 1940[5] in which a young fireman who had just relieved Rosoman at his position was killed by a collapsing building in the City of London.[6] Whilst the other fireman, the author William Sansom, survived, the scene haunted Rosoman and he re-worked the painting several times.[7] Rosoman sometimes called his work, The Falling Wall.[5][8] It was completed in August, 1941.[9] The painting was shown in the Firemen Artists exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1941.[4]

A number of artists had joined the NFS and an firemen artists' committee had been formed which included Bernard Hailstone, Paul Lucien Dessau, Norman Hepple and Robert Coram as well as Rosoman. As well as contributing to both War Artists' Advisory Committee, WAAC, and specialist civil defence art shows, the firemen held several of their own exhibitions.[10]

In 1943 Rosoman was seconded to the War Office to illustrate books on fire-fighting, and in April 1945 was appointed, by the War Artists' Advisory Committee, to a full-time salaried position, along with James Morris, to document the activities of the British Pacific Fleet. Commissioned as a captain in the Royal Marines, he was posted to the Far East. He joined the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable in Sydney in May 1945 and sailed with her for three months before returning to Sydney to work his on-board sketches into finished paintings. On board Formidable he became fascinated by the new technologies he encountered there, "I've become interested in all sorts of strange devices like radar indicators, pom-poms and planes with wings that fold up like a moth's".[7] He travelled to Hong Kong in September 1945 to record bomb damage and although he reached the coast of Japan he did not go ashore there.[10]

Later life[edit]

On his return to Britain, Rosoman taught at Camberwell College of Art for a while before moving to Edinburgh College of Art in 1948 to teach mural painting. He organised a famous exhibition for Sergei Diaghilev at the Edinburgh festival of 1954 and, with the help of students, made a large mural at the art college, where the exhibit was held. This exhibition was later shown in London. In 1956 he moved on to the Chelsea School of Art, and the following year to the Royal College of Art, where David Hockney was one of his students.[2]

In 1951 Rosoman painted a mural for the Festival of Britain on the South Bank in London and drew his first illustrations for the Radio Times.[2] In 1958 he did the murals for the British Pavilion at the Brussels International Exhibition.

Rosoman was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1960 and became a full academician in 1969.[11] He painted a mural at the restaurant in the Academy's home, Burlington House, depicting scenes of life within and around the building.[2]

In 1988 he painted the ceiling of the chapel at Lambeth Palace.[12] His work there consists of a series of panels with scenes from the lives of St Augustine, Thomas Becket and Matthew Parker, and a Christ in Glory.[2][12] A retrospective exhibition of Rosoman's war art was held at the Imperial War Museum in 1989, before been shown in Edinburgh in 1990.[13]

He received the OBE in 1981. He was married twice.[2]

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Middleton, 'The Drawings of Leonard Rosoman', in Image; 3 (1949–1950), p. 3-22


  1. ^ Cathy Courtney (3 March 2012). "Leonard Rosoman: Painter whose work profited from his oblique approach to life". London: The Independent. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Michael McNay (29 February 2012). "Leonard Rosoman obituary | Art and design | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  3. ^ Alan Horne (1994). The Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators. Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 1 85149 1082.
  4. ^ a b "A House Collapsing on Two Firemen, Shoe Lane, London, EC4". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b The Blitz: London's Longest Night, Channel 4/PBS (2006), filmed interview, transcript timecode 01:02:49 "At 1 A.M...." http://tv.ark.com/transcript/the_blitz__london%27s_longest_night/918/KQED/Monday_February_8_2010/190760/
  6. ^ Art from the Second World War. Imperial War Museum. 2007. ISBN 978-1-904897-66-8.
  7. ^ a b "Leonard Rosoman". London: The Telegraph. 7 March 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
  8. ^ We Can Take It, Mark Connelly, Taylor Francis Group (2004) p.136 ISBN 978-0-582-50607-7
  9. ^ British Romantic Arts and the Second World War, Stuart Stillars, Palgrave Macmillan (1991) p.84 ISBN 978-1-349-09920-7
  10. ^ a b Brain Foss (2007). War paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939–1945. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10890-3.
  11. ^ "Leonard Rosoman, R.A." Royal Academy. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Inside Lambeth Palace". Archbishop of Canterbury. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  13. ^ Imperial War Museum. "Leonard Rosoman war retrospective, 1939–1945". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 13 January 2014.

External links[edit]