Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
Clement-Jones family 12/22 - Person Sheet
NameSir Roland Algernon PENROSE CBE , 10519
FatherJames Doyle PENROSE RHA , 10518 (1862-1932)
MotherElizabeth Josephine PECKOVER , 10525 (1859-1930)
2Lee MILLER , 10528
FatherTheodore MILLER , 10530
MotherFlorence MACDONALD , 10531
ChildrenAntony , 10529
Notes for Sir Roland Algernon PENROSE CBE

From Wikipedia,

Spouse Valentine Boué, Lee Miller
Nationality English
Training Architecture
Movement Surrealism
Influenced by Picasso, Max Ernst

Sir Roland Algernon Penrose CBE (14 October 1900 – 23 April 1984) was an English artist, historian and poet. He was a major promoter and collector of modern art and an associate of the surrealists in the United Kingdom.[1] During the Second World War, he put his artistic skills to practical use as a teacher of camouflage.



He was the son of James Doyle Penrose (1862–1932)[2], a successful portrait painter, and Elizabeth Josephine Peckover, the daughter of Baron Peckover, a wealthy Quaker banker. He was the third of four brothers: his older brother was the medical geneticist Lionel Penrose.[3] Roland grew up in a strict Quaker family in Watford and attended Leighton Park School, Reading, Berkshire. After studying architecture at Queens' College, Cambridge, Penrose switched to painting and moved to France where he lived from 1922 and married his first wife the poet Valentine Boué. During this period he became friends with Picasso, Wolfgang Paalen and Max Ernst, who would have the strongest influence on his work and most of the leading Surrealists.


Penrose returned to London in 1936 and was one of the organisers of the London International Surrealist Exhibition, which led to the establishment of the English surrealist movement. Penrose settled in Hampstead where he was the centre of the community of avant-garde British artist and emigres that had settled there and opened the London Gallery on Cork Street where he promoted the Surrealists as well as friends Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo. Penrose commissioned a sculpture from Moore for his Hampstead House that became the focus of a press campaign against abstract art. In 1938, Penrose organised a tour of Picasso's Guernica that raised funds for the Republican Government in Spain. Penrose and Boué's marriage had broken down in 1934, they divorced in 1937, and by 1939 Penrose had begun his relationship with model and photographer Lee Miller; they finally married in 1947. They lived at 21 Downshire Hill, Hampstead, London, which now bears a blue plaque.[4]
[edit]World War II camouflage work

Penrose used this photograph of his partner Lee Miller to startle his audiences when lecturing on camouflage.
As a Quaker, Penrose was a pacifist, but after the outbreak of World War II volunteered as an air raid warden and then taught military camouflage at the Home Guard training centre at Osterley Park.[5][6] This led to Penrose's commission as a Captain in the Royal Engineers. He worked as Senior Lecturer at the Eastern Command Camouflage School in Norwich, and at the Camouflage Development and Training Centre at Farnham Castle, Surrey. During his lectures, he used to startle his audiences by inserting a colour photograph of his partner Lee Miller, lying on a lawn naked but for a camouflage net; when challenged, he argued "if camouflage can hide Lee's charms, it can hide anything".[7] Forbes suggests this was a surrealist technique being put into service.[7] His lectures were respected by both trainees and colleagues.[8] In 1941 Penrose wrote the Home Guard Manual of Camouflage, which provided accurate guidance on the use of texture, not only colour, especially for protection from aerial photography (monochrome at that time).[8]

Penrose was an early staff member of the "Camouflage Development and Training Centre" located at Farnham Castle in Surrey. He was also influential in securing passage from Europe for many artists and finding them work and accommodation in England or onward travel to the US, including Kurt Schwitters and Salvador Dalí.


After the war, Penrose co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, with the art critic and writer Herbert Read in 1947. Penrose organised the first two ICA exhibitions 40 Years of Modern Art that included many key works of Cubism and 40,000 Years of Modern Art which reflected his interest in African Sculpture. Penrose was a presence at the ICA for 30 years. He produced a number of books, which cover the works of his friends Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Man Ray and Antoni Tàpies. He was also a trustee of the Tate Gallery organising a survey of Picasso's work there in 1960 and using his contacts to negotiate purchases of works by Picasso and the Surrealists at discounted prices.

[edit]Farley Farm

Penrose and Miller bought Farley Farm in East Sussex in 1949 where he displayed his valuable collection of modern art in particular the Surrealists and works by Picasso. Penrose also designed the landscaping around the house as a setting for works of modern sculpture. In 1972, thieves broke into his London flat stealing a number of works and then demanded a ransom. During a BBC TV interview Penrose stated he would refuse all demands for a ransom. The paintings were later recovered as a result of diligent work by the Police. Some were damaged but were restored by the Tate Gallery. After the death of his wife Penrose loaned several key paintings from her collection to The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, a practice that is continued with Penrose's collection by his descendants.

Penrose's former home at Farley Farm is now a museum and an archive which is open to the public for guided tours on pre-determined days.


His bold and enigmatic surrealist paintings, drawings and objects are some of the most enduring images of the movement. He is remembered for his postcard collages, examples of which are found in major national collections across Britain. He was awarded the CBE in 1960,[9] and he was knighted for his services to the visual arts in 1966.[10] The University of Sussex awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Letters in 1980. He is the uncle of the physicist and polymath Sir Roger Penrose. He and Lee Miller had a son, Antony Penrose, who continues to run Farley Farm as a museum and archive.

Audio recording

An interview with Roland Penrose (and Lee Miller) recorded in 1946 can be heard on the audio CD Surrealism Reviewed.
Last Modified 27 Aug 2012Created 4 Mar 2023 using Reunion for Macintosh