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 Frank Humphrey Sinkler Jennings  (1907 - 1950)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/Greece      Known for: Surrealist painting, set design, textile design

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Frank Humphrey Sinkler Jennings
from Auction House Records.
Life and death
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Frank Humphrey Sinkler Jennings (1907–1950)

Born at ‘The Gazebo’ Walberswick, Suffolk on 19 August 1907, elder of two sons of Frank Jennings (1877–1949), an architect, and of his wife, Mildred Jessie née Hall (1881–1955), an amateur painter, who married the previous year, Mildred was a niece of Edward Sinkler.  In 1916 Jennings went to Perse School, Cambridge, where the classicist Dr William Henry Denham Rouse (1863-1950) was headmaster and Caldwell Cook (1885-1939), author of The Play Way, was a teacher of English and drama.  Jennings excelled both at work and at games and showed promise as an actor, set designer, and poet.  In 1926 he won a scholarship from Pembroke College, Cambridge, to read for the English tripos.  He painted a great deal, designed sets for many theatrical productions, including the first British performances of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale and Honneger's King David and together with fellow undergraduates Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) and William Empson (1906-1984), founded and wrote for Experiment, a student magazine.

He married on 19 October 1929, Cicely Mary W R, daughter of Richard Synge Cooper, a civil engineer.  Shortage of money caused him to take short-term employment, working as a schoolteacher in Salisbury, as a textile designer in Paris, and as a set designer at the Festival Theatre in Cambridge.  Finally, in 1934, he joined the General Post Office film unit, later renamed the Crown Film Unit, which gave him training as an editor and director.  For a short period he became a leading figure of the British surrealist movement and with others, organized the famous International Surrealist Exhibition 1936 in which his collage Minotaur, an unflattering portrait of Lord Kitchener, was one of the notable exhibits.  One of his principal publications was May the Twelfth: Mass-Observation Day Surveys 1937, a collage account of George VI's coronation, for Faber and Faber.  Jennings's first distinctive film, Spare Time (1939) marked Jennings's full-time return to the General Post Office film unit, where he remained until after the Second World War during which time his works included Listen to Britain (1942), Fires were Started (1943), and A Diary for Timothy (1945) and after the war A Defeated People (1945), The Cumberland Story (1947), The Dim Little Island (1949), and Family Portrait (1950).  He continued to work tirelessly at accumulating texts on science and industry for Pandemonium and completed dozens of paintings.  His main post-war employer was Wessex Films and in 1982 held an exhibition of paintings and films at London's Riverside Studios.  Jennings was appointed OBE, in 1946, for his contributions to sustaining morale at home and for publicizing the British cause abroad.

He died on the Greek island of Poros, after falling from a cliff while scouting locations for a film about health services in Europe, on 24 September 1950 and buried in the Protestant cemetery in Athens.  His wife Cecily was born on 25 April 1908 and died at St. Pancras, London in 1975.

Information provided by Tony Copsey, author and researcher of artists in Suffolk County, England

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