Gallery Online

Ley Kenyon

Biography

Ley Kenyon was a professional artist between the wars. He was captured by the Germans and continued to paint on scraps of paper from the Red Cross parcels. His skill was noticed and he became the forger of documents for the escape committee. A film was made "The Great Escape" where they used a wooden horse for vaulting outside, to cover the escape. Donald Pleasance played his character.

However, there was an element of "licence" in the telling of the story - his eyesight was fine but he didn't escape because they had drawn lots as to who would escape first. He had drawn a very high number and consequently didn't get to go down the tunnel as it was discovered before he had a chance to go through. This ultimately saved his life. He thought of himself as a cat with nine lives as he had escaped death on so many occasions.

He wasn't only a fine artist, he gave fascinating talks on his time as a prisoner of war with reference to The Great Escape and he also dived with Jacques Cousteau and wrote a very successful book on diving. Most of his drawings of the tunnel building can be seen at the RAF museum. He had also taught art at Chelsea Art School and told amusing stories about employing Quintin Crisp as his life model. He taught Prince Philip to scubadive in the pool at Buckingham Palace. He was a truly remarkable man and was painting right up until the time of his sudden death in America

He painted and taught painting all his life until he died in 1991