George Kenner (1888-1971)

George Kenner at Knockaloe.


The 110 paintings and drawings, along with a short journal, by George Kenner document the internment of aliens both at Knockaloe and elsewhere in Great Britain. Georg Kennerknecht was born in Schwabsoien, Bavaria in 1888. From an early age he worked as a musician, but also studied art. In 1910 he moved to London were he worked as a ‘process artist’ and co-owned a Waddington & Kennerknecht; attending Lambeth School of Art to study airbrush techniques. It was whilst he lived in London that he anglicised his name as George Kenner. Whilst living in Britain he travelled extensively painting and drawing the sites and historical places in England and Wales. It was during one of these visits, to the Lake District, that war broke and Kenner was forced to register as an enemy alien at the police station. After the sinking of RMS Lusitania he was detained and sent to the temporary internment camp at Frifth Hill (Surrey), before being moved to Alexandra Palace (1915) when he spent 9 months. He was then taken to Knockaloe (June 1916) where he spent the remainder of the war. He spent the time he was incarcerated painting detailed pictures of the life that surrounded him, and keeping a journal of his experiences. As one critic observes:

…his works appear traditional, Kenner’s focus on the present makes him somewhat of a modernist. For he knew that if his work was nothing more than traditional, they would lack conviction and meaning in a world undergoing terrific upheaval and change in social, political and economic terms…. Kenner’s realist camp-life art manages to be ‘radical’ because Kenner recognized and understood the contradiction it embodied that enabled him to experiment continually in all sorts of ways…. [his works represent] a constant dialogue between impulse and precision, a dialogue expressed through an unusually close harmony of hand and mind.  

Unfortunately, some of his art work was lost when sent to a friend in London, as Kenner's reports:

I had again finished a series of water colors and sent them out to my friend at London. Later I learned that the address was lost and the parcel sold by auction. Half a years arduous work was gone, and with it the joy to continue painting; especially after a colleague had taken over night out of my over-coat pocket, (while I slept), my warm leather sketching gloves. (Kenner, n.d. : 33).

Further details of Kenner’s experiences come from the journal which he used to record his experiences and thoughts on his internment (although this seems to have been completed some years later).

Kenner was released from Knockaloe in March 1919 and was repatriated to Germany, where he met and married fellow artist Margarete Bohne in Munich (1921). The social and economic crisis’ in Germany at the time meant it was difficult for him to pursue his art, but through his business contacts in London he was able to receive supplies.  Kenner and his family moved to the United States where they settled in Pennsylvania (1927) and where he became a commercial artist.

Much of Kenner’s personal archive and his artwork were lodged with the Imperial War Museum London and exhibited at Bruce Castle Museum in Haringey, Manx National Heritage and Surrey Heath Museum (2005).

Knockaloe Internment Camp, on the Isle of Man, 1918. © George Kenner estate.


Donohoe, V. (2005). ‘Prison-camp life produces artwork of dichotomies George Kenner's work is traditional yet modern, impulsive yet precise, radical yet safe’. (, accessed 19 March 2013).

Kenner, G. (n.d.). Sketches of a German Interned Civilian Prisoner in England (1914-1919). unpublished.

Kenner Bedford, C. (2011). ‘George Kenner Biography. My Father - George Kenner – Memories’. (, accessed 19 March 2013).